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For the past four years, when baseball fans accessed www.mlb.com looking for the latest statistics, standings or scores on the Internet, they were thrown a major-league curveball. Instead of finding data about the home runs hit by Mark McGuire or Sammy Sosa or how far the Phillies were out of first place, they were treated to press releases about a new lateral hire or information about Stephen Goodman’s latest mega-deal. Philadelphia-based Morgan Lewis & Bockius already had dibs on the mlb.com domain name, leaving Major League Baseball with the elongated www.majorleaguebaseball.com. It seems simple enough — first come, first serve is the rule of the Internet. But there was one little problem: Major League Baseball has been a valued Morgan Lewis client for well over a decade. So Morgan Lewis officials created a link on their site to steer confused baseball fans to Major League Baseball’s site. That solved the immediate problem, but Major League Baseball still wanted the domain name for itself, and Morgan Lewis, at least initially, was reluctant to oblige. “From the beginning, Major League Baseball had an interest in using the mlb.com name,” Morgan Lewis chairman Fran Milone said. “And in the early years we weren’t interested in considering that because we had just started the Web site. But over time we started branding ourselves more and more as Morgan Lewis, and we knew they were still interested in it.” So the two sides announced last week that Morgan Lewis would transfer the mlb.com domain name to Major League Baseball and assume the new moniker www.morganlewis.com for its Web site and e-mail addresses. For the first 10 days of the transfer, users who go to www.mlb.com will be given the choice of linking to either the Major League Baseball or Morgan Lewis Web site. After that and for an unspecified period of time, fans will be able to access Major League Baseball on the Web at either mlb.com or MajorLeagueBaseball.com. Eventually, Major League Baseball’s Web address will be mlb.com exclusively, as will its e-mail address. That announcement will be made later. Morgan Lewis registered the mlb.com domain name in 1994 and launched its Web site two years later in the infant years of the Internet. But as the Internet became prominent as a communication device with fans, Major League Baseball’s interest in the domain name grew. At the same time, Morgan Lewis geared its branding strategy to promote the portion of its name that is best known. So the firm decided to help a client achieve its marketing objectives. “I think we knew they had [the domain name] early on, but we didn’t think much about it because the Internet was not a big thing back then,” Major League Baseball spokesperson Richard Levin said. “But at the beginning of this year, we decided to emphasize our Web site more by centralizing all of our [individual team] sites under one site.” Major League Baseball and Morgan Lewis have enjoyed a long professional relationship that dates back to the late 1980s, when the law firm began representing Major League Baseball in labor negotiations. Levin said the two sides met over the course of several months to consider under what circumstances it would make sense to transfer the domain name before entering into a confidential transfer agreement last month.

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