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NYU student pulls Web site

New York University tells a law student the domain name he chose for his legal resource Web site--"www.nyu-law.com"--infringes on its trademark.

2 min read
An online trademark spat with New York University is teaching fist-year law student Barry Edwards more about his future profession than any professor could.

Edwards, who hopes to become a Net copyright attorney when he graduates from NYU's School of Law, registered the domain name "www.nyu-law.com" last December for his legal resource Web site. But when the university saw the site, Edwards was asked to "cease and desist" what it felt was trademark infringement.

Two weeks ago, during a town hall meeting between the NYU student bar association and the school's administration, Edwards's site was a hot topic. Soon after he was asked by law school Dean John Sexton to take the site down, Edwards said. Last Wednesday, he finally complied.

"We worked it out like lawyers should work things out. These last couple of weeks I've learned so much outside the classroom," Edwards said.

Jane Thieberger, the assistant dean of communication and the law's school's spokeswoman on the issue, would not comment on the trademark squabble today. But NYU may have had a separate problem with Edwards.

Edwards also runs a site called All Rise! Network, which was linked to the "nyu-law.com" site.

"At one point you could jump from the "nyu-law.com" site to the All Rise! Network, which had adult sites linked to it. NYU was concerned that the site was three or four clicks away from cybererotica," Edwards said.

Edwards is not the first small-time Web publisher to step on the toes of a well-known institution over a domain name.

The Internet's rapid growth has created a new battlefront for trademark owners, resulting in a slew of lawsuits targeting Web sites that allegedly breached trademarks, including ones named after Marilyn Monroe, a New York jazz club, Esquire and the New Yorker magazines, the giant London department store Harrods, and most recently Planned Parenthood.

"This example is being repeated throughout the country as more and more owners of trademarks attempt to secure their place on the Net, only to find that their name has been taken by someone else," said Robert Welsh, an intellectual property lawyer for the Los Angeles law firm Mitchell, Silberberg & Knupp.

It's likely that Edwards would have had little luck fighting for his domain name in court.

"In virtually every instance the courts have ruled in favor of the owner of the trademark. Especially since the Federal Trademark Anti-Dilution statute which went into effect in the beginning of 1996," Welsh added. "This changed the rules so that when you own a 'famous' trademark, you can prevent others from using it without having to prove user confusion. This is because the unauthorized use of it can diminish the distinctiveness of the trademark."