UK 'Star Wars' Domain Name Battle Gets an Appeal
The Force is strong with Disney.
A UK-based costume shop that was ordered to give up the domain name “StarWars.co.uk” and other variations in July based on an ownership claim from Disney and Lucasfilm has appealed that decision. The rebel scum, who picked up the URL when Disney forgot to re-up their registration, currently use the site to sell officially licensed Star Wars costumes for adults, kids, and even pets.
Disney filed the claim last month to Nominet, the company that oversees .uk domain names, saying the page owned by Joker’s Masquerade “falsely inferred a commercial connection” to their popular film franchise. To successfully claim ownership of a domain name, Nominet requires companies and invidiuals to prove that the domain in question is “abusive” to their intellectual property or worse. Initially, Nominet found that people visiting the site could somehow presume a potential connection between it and the films.
But Abscissa, the parent company that owns Joker’s Masquerade, struck back.
Abscissa’s chief executive, Mark Lewis, told the BBC, “I can’t believe that over the last two decades that someone from either Lucasfilm or Disney did not do a WhoIs [search] and find that that starwars.co.uk and star-wars.co.uk were not registered to them.” Lewis added that “the internet domains point to legitimate Star Wars-branded costumes that we’ve been selling for the past 13 years,” so it’s not like people who click through are being misled or like Disney is seeing no profit. The site actually promotes Star Wars in an official way without any legitimate abuse to the name, so why all the fuss?
Lucasfilm had previously owned all variations of the “.co.uk” names prior to 2003, but simply let the rights lapse without renewing them. If that’s true, and someone in the Lucasfilm legal department made a domain name whoopsie, it just seems like the Disney-owned company is trying to cover its ass and get the domains back before the new movie, The Force Awakens, explodes into theaters in December.
This puts Lewis and his companies in a unique situation. Since 2001, only 48 cases have led to an appeal, but only 20 out of the 48 have led Nominet’s initial rulings to be overturned. If they win this improbable battle — just like the Rebel Alliance — it’ll let Disney know that it doesn’t own everything related to Star Wars, and that it’s their own damn fault for not setting a reminder on their calendars to renew the domain names. If not, then count it as a victory for the Empire.