January 20, 1999 4:45 PM PST

Domain name "little guys" fight back

On a roll after prevailing over household products giant Colgate-Palmolive, a nonprofit Web site is organizing a federation of small domain name holders to stand up to wealthy trademark owners.

The alliance is being proposed by Ajax.org, a Web site that successfully rebuffed demands by Colgate-Palmolive to give up the rights to its domain name. As previously reported, Colgate-Palmolive dropped its demands after news and advocacy site Slashdot.org organized a public campaign that generated 1,300 signatures for a protest petition in just 24 hours.

"When the Netizens of slashdot.org came to our rescue with a conscientious outpouring of letters and feedback, we were saved," Ajax.org wrote in announcing the proposed alliance, dubbed Domain Defense Advocate. "Since the letter-writing campaign was so successful in the case of ajax.org's domain defense, we imagine that it can be equally successful in other cases."

The alliance is designed to help operators of small Web sites with modest means stand up to trademark owners, which often have much deeper pockets. During the past three years, numerous battles have raged between the two groups, often ending up with Web sites being forced to cede their domain names after protracted negotiations or lawsuits.

Two recent fights, however, show that wealthy trademark owners are not invincible, especially when the legal battles they wage result in bad public relations. In addition to Colgate-Palmolive dropping its demands that Ajax.org surrender its name, for example, Archie Comics recently dropped its campaign to confiscate the rights to Veronica.org, a Web site set up by a Los Angeles man to celebrate the birth of his 2-year-old daughter, Veronica, in 1997.

The Domain Defense Advocate appears to be the culmination of the momentum those cases have created. Individuals interested in joining can sign up to be added to a mail group that notifies them when the holder of a domain name is threatened with legal action and needs support.

"The intended result is a large response showing the attacking entity that the domain's rights are important to more than just a few people," the announcement explained.

 

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