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Gorilla lovers beat chests in domain clash

A millionaire and retired software executive finds himself at the center of a domain name brouhaha with a competitor, but supporters of his philanthropic efforts have got his back.

Supporters of Steuart Dewar have a message for those who've crossed his path: Don't mess with the gorilla man.

The millionaire and retired software executive has been donating the proceeds from his DateBk scheduling application to build a private gorilla sanctuary near his home in the North Georgia mountains. DateBk is one of the most popular handheld applications, partly because Dewar licensed it to Handspring for use in its Visor devices.

Now Dewar has found himself at the center of a domain name brouhaha with competitor Iambic, which makes a similar scheduling application. Days before Dewar released DateBk5 this week, Iambic registered the DateBk5.com and DateBk4.com Web addresses, which for a time resolved to ads for Iambic's rival software.

Dewar said it never occurred to him to register the DateBk sites. Regardless, he thinks Iambic's actions have backfired, cementing his fan base instead of stealing his customers.

"The negative repercussions are going to bring me more business," he said.

That may be so. Palm chat boards have been ablaze with vitriol aimed at Iambic since the scuffle began last week. Some Dewar fans have decided to stave off any future shenanigans by registering DateBk-related domain names on Dewar's behalf.

Keith Griffin, a Houston network engineer and self-described "gadget freak," shelled out his own money to register DateBk6 and DateBk7 shortly after learning of the dispute. He plans to turn the Net addresses over to Dewar.

"He's a great programmer who puts out good products and has a good sense of humor," Griffin said. "People are pissed."

Iambic says it has the right to use the addresses, saying they are based on "generic key word" names.

"As a vendor of datebook software, Iambic maintains that it has the right to purchase domains containing the generic key word 'datebook' (and the abbreviation 'datebk') which are not trademarked," Iambic said in a statement.

The company took down the contents of DateBk4.com and DateBk5.com sometime Wednesday. It said it removed material from the Web site after getting complaints from handheld users.

"We became concerned when this trend continued and began to shift the discussion away from who makes the best datebook product to issues surrounding the registrations, sales practices and other non-product issues," the company said.

Typically, the owners of a trademarked or widely used products have the rights to the Web address consisting of its name--and can easily reclaim it by proving the other party registered it in bad faith or is using it deceitfully.

Dewar, who does not have a trademark on the DateBk name, said he'll let his supporters beat their chests over the matter for now.

"It's strange to do something that overt," Dewar said of Iambic's actions. "I'm not going to descend to that level of mudslinging."