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Forbes Gets $300,000 From Cybersquatter

The Russian edition of Forbes has won the use of the domain name Forbes.ru and a record $300,000 in damages from a cybersquatter in a landmark court ruling, the magazine announced Friday.

Forbes and its Russian publisher, Axel Springer Russia, sued Landmark VIP Services, which advertises travel packages on Forbes.ru, for the unauthorized use of the magazine's trademark in its web address. The travel site was still online Sunday evening.

The Moscow Arbitration Court awarded Forbes $300,000 in damages, the largest compensation payout to date in a Russian case of this kind. Cybersquatting litigation in Russia has often resulted in the awarding of nominal sums, and the Forbes case could mark a departure from that precedent.

In 1999, U.S. camera giant Eastman Kodak sued a Russian firm that was using Kodak.ru in the first such high-profile case and won 2,600 rubles — about $100 at the time — in compensation after a two-year legal battle.

Landmark VIP Services registered Forbes.ru in 2002 and for several years visitors to the page were greeted by an announcement that Forbes would soon be launching a web site, along with a link to the Russian company's holiday catalogue. More recently, the travel firm added to the page a short biography and portrait of David James Forbes, a 19th-century Scottish naturalist and explorer.

The magazine launched its online version at ForbesRussia.ru in November.

Grigory Punanov, chief editor of ForbesRussia.ru, said he was very satisfied with the outcome. "We fought for a long time for the legal right to use the domain name Forbes.ru," he said in a statement. "I hope the ruling will enter legal force and that our site will soon be available at that address."

The ruling is good news for other trademark owners who claim to have found themselves victim to cybersquatters. Burger King filed suit in December in the Moscow Arbitration Court for the use of BurgerKing.ru, which is now jointly held by a Russian and a Dutch company. The fast-food chain has said it is eager to acquire the address before its entry to the Russian market.

With the launch of Cyrillic domain names for commercial entities later this year, some fear that a new wave of cybersquatting may lie ahead. The project became mired in scandal on the first day of priority registration for trademark holders and government bodies in November, when speculators exploited a loophole in trademark law to secure premium .рф domain names with key words including bank, real estate and cinema.

Financial institutions, in particular, fear a surge in online fraud. If a scammer acquires the domain name of a bank, for example, it could trick customers into visiting the site and revealing account details, a practice known as phishing.

"If we did not register early, we ran the risk of cybersquatters taking the domain names first," Dmitry Fyodorov, VTB's head of Internet projects, told The Moscow Times. "It would pose a serious risk to security as well as to our reputation."

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