From an article in today’s edition of The Register:
According to Dell’s lawyers – old hands at this sort of thing – the owner of Dellwebsites is committing “an act of parasitism” and “creating a risk of confusion” between himself and the online PC vendor Dell. It wants the domain signed over to it, at the owner’s cost.
The theory runs that as soon as someone sees or hears of www.dellwebsites.com, they immediately think “oh that lovely company that sells cheap but well-built PCs has got into web design”. They are then overwhelmed with revulsion when they find out it’s nothing to do with Dell the PC maker.
Yes, incredible as it may seem, the name “Dell” did exist before 1984. You may think this was obvious since the company is named after founder Michael Dell. If nothing else, his parents would have used the name before him. Does Michael not realise that other families may also the same surname? He probably does, but tough businessman that he is, he’s not afraid to screw over his own kin.
In this case that is one Paul Dell. Paul lives in Spain and, incredibly, makes websites for a living. Paul thought the Internet domain dellwebsites.com was therefore a pretty good description of what he was up to online (apparently, dell.com had already gone).
But while Mr. Dell (Paul, that is) was pleased with his purchase back in April 2001, it now appears that he was trying to rip off Mr. Dell (Michael) and his enormous US company. Quite what the enormous impact Paul’s website has had on the PC giant is hard to gauge.
For the first half of this year, Dell’s revenue actually went up 20 per cent to $23 billion. No mention of Paul Dell’s web design business has appeared in its financial results as having a negative impact on these sales.
Nonetheless, it’s not just about the money, it’s about the principle, isn’t it? Which perhaps makes it hard to understand why it was that Dell backed down the last time it tried to take dellwebsites.com off Paul Dell. Yes, Paul Dell has been through this charade once before, in April 2002. Dell was still adamant that it rightly owned the domain, but when Paul Dell make it clear that he wasn’t prepared to cave in to pressure, the company walked away.
Why didn’t it take him to a domain arbitrator or a law court, you ask? Most likely because it didn’t stand a chance of winning the case. And so jump forward two-and-a-half years and we’re here again. What has changed?
Not much it seems: “You continue to use the denomination DELL WEB SITES as trade mark, company name, trade name or shop sign to designate your activities,” roar Dell’s lawyers. Er, yes.
“Alike you continue to use the denomination DELL WEB SITES as domain name and within the copyright notices to which the Site links.” Well, that’s because that’s where I run my business, haven’t we been here before?
“Finally, you modified the copyright notice to ‘Copyright 2004, Paul Dell, Dell Web Sites’ in order to include your first name.” That’s it! They’ve got Paul Dell bang to right because – get this – he included his first name as a copyright notice on his own website.
This would be funny were it not so worrying for the individuals and small businesses that find themselves at the end of such unwarranted demands by powerful legal firms and international businesses.