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1/9/2009
12:24 PM
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Ex-eBay Head Whitman Aims To Claim Domain Names

Several of the domain names are related to her potential run for California governor, including megwhitmanforgovernor.com and whitmanforgovernor.com.

Ex-eBay CEO Meg Whitman, a Republican, hasn't officially thrown her hat in the ring for the California governor's race and she's already embroiled in a nasty fight with a Democrat over Internet domain names.

Tom Hall, a Santa Monica man who says he collects domain names as a hobby, has registered several domain names based on Whitman's name. Whitman, who has been preparing for a run for the governor's seat, has detailed attorneys to fight the latest batch of domain names in a lawsuit filed recently in Federal District Court in San Jose.

When rumors first surfaced a year ago that Whitman, who was then relinquishing the CEO's position at eBay, was considering running for governor, Hall registered relevant domain names, including megwhitmanforgovernor.com, whitmanforgovernor.com, whitman2010.com, meg2010.com, and megwhitman2010.com.

In earlier litigation with the World intellectual Property Association, Hall prevailed in an arbitration hearing after the mediator said Whitman's name wasn't well-enough known for her to qualify as a unique brand. An important precedent cited is the case of singer Bruce Springsteen, who wasn't able to claim the BruceSpringsteen.com domain.

So why doesn't Whitman, who has a net worth of at least $1 billion, just buy the domains from Hall, who says he doesn't have the means to hire an attorney?

A spokesman for Whitman said attorneys attempted to contact Hall, but he didn't respond, according to The Associated Press, while Hall said Whitman hasn't called him or even offered to buy the domains. "You would think she'd be smart enough to buy the domain before she tells everyone she's thinking about running for governor," Hall was quoted as saying.

The new federal court action raises the ante in the brouhaha, because Whitman now alleges that Hall is violating federal laws that regulate cybersquatting. The litigation also cites California's Political Cyberfraud Abatement Act. Hall has recently registered additional Whitman domain names with the California secretary of state.

For unannounced candidate Whitman, there's also the danger that Hall, as he has said, could use the domain names for fun as a sort of parody.

In the meantime, Whitman can take solace in her ownership of her very own domain name: megwhitman.com.

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