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iTunes domain dispute heads to U.K. court

Following registry's ruling that he surrender iTunes.co.uk name to Apple, British entrepreneur seeks a second opinion.

The former dot-com millionaire who lost the rights to the iTunes.co.uk domain name has announced that he plans to take his legal battle to the High Court.

Earlier this month, domain name registry service Nominet ruled that Benjamin Cohen must hand the iTunes.co.uk name to Apple Computer. Although Cohen registered the name in November 2000, three years before Apple initially launched its online music shop of the same name, Nominet's dispute resolution procedure found in favor of the California company.

Cohen said he has been deterred from appealing directly to Nominet due to the cost--a 3,000 pound ($5,600) fee in addition to legal expenses--and feels the domain name registrar is biased in favor of large U.S. corporations over small U.K. companies.

Apple offered to buy the domain name for $5,000 late last year, but Cohen responded he would only be willing to sell for 50,000 pounds ($94,000). Following several weeks of informal mediation that failed to resolve the dispute, a Nominet expert was appointed to rule on ownership of the domain name.

Cohen asked at the time that the expert not be a Mac user because "there is a 'cult' associated with the products of (Apple), which attract fanatical users," Nominet's ruling said.

Now CEO of CyberBritain, Cohen said he intends to refer the decision for judicial review in the High Court. Apple, which Cohen said branded him a cybersquatter, declined to comment.

Currently, the iTunes.co.uk domain name redirects visitors to another of Cohen's ventures, a shopping site called Quickquid.com.

Previously, the site was used as a music search engine and to redirect page visitors to Skipmusic.com and later Cyberbritain.com. Following the launch of iTunes in Britain, the site received more than 4,000 hits a day.

Late last year, Cohen tried to sell the domain name to Apple's online music rival Napster. Although Napster declined the offer, for a brief period in November, iTunes.co.uk redirected its visitors to Napster.co.uk.

Nominet-appointed expert Claire Milne ruled the registration took "unfair advantage" of Apple's trademarks and decided "on the balance of probabilities, I find the domain name...is an abusive registration on the grounds of its use in a manner taking advantage of, and being unfairly detrimental to (Apple)."

Jo Best of Silicon.com reported from London.