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Nominet wins iTunes.co.uk decision

The English High Court has rejected an entrepreneur's attempt to annul Nominet UK's decision to transfer itunes.co.uk to Apple Computer. Ben Cohen's Cyberbritain Group had sought judicial review on the domain name ruling.05 Aug 2005

According to Nominet, the judge noted that the application was flawed in several respects, being both late and unnecessary given the right of appeal which forms part of Nominet's Dispute Resolution Service, which Mr Cohen had failed to use.

Ben Cohen is a former teenage dot.com star. He founded a community portal called soJewish.com in the 1990s, aged 16. It merged with the London Jewish News, floated to become Totally plc and for a day, Cohen said he was the youngest director of a publicly quoted company ever.

His current venture, Cyberbritain, started out as a search engine and portal site and became what it describes as "a data marketing powerhouse". It registered the itunes.co.uk domain in 2000, long before Apple's iTunes service was launched at itunes.com.

Cyberbritain used itunes.co.uk to redirect visitors to a succession of its own websites. It also tried without success to sell the name to Napster. A panellist for Nominet, the registry for all internet domain names ending in .uk, used this as evidence for a finding that Cyberbritain's registration was abusive. The transfer to Apple was awarded in March.

Cyberbritain sought judicial review of the transfer decision. Nominet insisted that it is not subject to the oversight of the High Court because it is not a public authority. Cyberbritain disagreed, arguing that Nominet has a monopoly on the management of .uk domain names; that its functions are public in nature; and that the internet is a public service.

At the time of filing the application for judicial review, Cohen acknowledged that an appeal to Nominet was possible, but noted that the fee would be £3,000 plus VAT in addition to legal costs. He added, "we feel that the procedure that Nominet utilise to settle disputes is unfair and biased towards big business".

Ben Cohen's company now has seven days from the date of the decision to apply to the court to for an oral hearing, otherwise the matter is closed.

Nominet said today that it is proud of its awarding winning Dispute Resolution Service and remains confident that it provides a mechanism for settling disputes for hundreds of small users for whom the courts are out of reach.

Edward Phillips, Nominet's Company Solicitor, said: "I am pleased that the judge has rejected Mr Cohen's case at the first possible opportunity, which leaves no doubt that it was without merit. We will now be looking at recovering our costs of defending this unnecessary action."

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