MP3.com loses fight for transfer of 'mp3.co.jp'

Japan

The Tokyo District Court has ruled that System KJ, a Tokyo developer of equipment for personal computers and communication devices, may use its 'mp3.co.jp' domain name despite a claim against it by MP3.com Inc, an online music distributor based in California. The decision overturns a prior ruling issued by the Japan Intellectual Property Arbitration Centre (JIPAC).

MP3.com started its distribution service in March 1998. System KJ registered the domain name 'mp3.co.jp' with the Japan Network Information Centre on July 16 1999 and also posted its own website.

On March 5 2000 MP3.com filed a complaint with JIPAC. The JIPAC panel decided that System KJ had registered and used the domain name in bad faith and therefore must transfer it to MP3.com. System KJ objected and brought the case to court.

According to the court, the point in dispute was whether holding and using the domain name was equivalent to unfair competition as defined in Article 2 of the Unfair Competition Prevention Law. Judge Toshiaki Iimura stated that MP3.com was well known when System KJ registered the domain name. Nevertheless, System KJ had obtained the domain name without malicious intent to (i) have others purchase goods at an unfairly high price, or (ii) appropriate the other company's customers. Therefore, MP3.com did not have the right to request an injunction.

Since JIPAC started its dispute resolution service in November 2000, 14 cases have been arbitrated by the panel, four of which have been brought to court. This is the first time that a court has overturned a JIPAC ruling.

Pauline C Reich and Shintaro Sagami, Waseda University, Tokyo

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