Mississippi Supreme Court upholds judgment against cybersquatter

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In 2018, Alyce G. Clarke Mississippi Lottery Law was passed. This law provided a way for the Mississippi State Lottery to be organized, for the maintenance of which Mississippi Lottery Corporation (MLC) was formed.

A peculiar thing occurred related to the Lottery when a domain investor decided to register a series of domain names related to the event. As many as 60 of them! All of the domain names registered contained two prominent keywords: ‘Mississippi’ and ‘Lottery’. Some of the registered domain names were: MSLottery.com, MississippiLottery.com, MSLottery.us, MississippiLottery.us, MississippiLottery.org, etc.

The registrant of these domain names and people at the Mississippi Lottery Corporation even engaged in discussions in relation to the domain names. MLC offered to buy the domain names, however an agreement between MLC and the investor couldn’t be achieved. The two parties thus approached the steps of the National Arbitration Forum (NAF).

NAF heard the contentions of both the parties. MLC wanted the transfer of three domains in particular: MississippiLottery.com, MSLottery.com, and MississippiLottery.org. MLC claimed the domain name registrations as a clear violation of its registered trademarks. The respondent, i.e., the domain name investor presented a claim that was quite an interesting one.

The respondent claimed that he had registered the domain name as he was opposed to gambling. He claimed that all of the domain names registered by him were aimed at his moral compass pointing against the ill of gambling. He said that the event hadn’t even started off yet, and there are chances that it might never start. Hence, he has until now backed from starting a proper website at the domain names, considering the cost associated with it. His campaign against gambling would resume once, the lottery actually starts. He also claimed that the domain names were registered before the related trademarks were acquired by the respondent.

However, the NAF decided against the domain investor and ordered the domain name be transferred to MLC. Post this the investor approached other judicial venues to present his grievances. 

Now, the Supreme Court of Mississippi has upheld the decision of the National Arbitration Forum by deciding against the domain investor again. The case in the Supreme Court talked about the transference of 5 domain names: MSLottery.com, MississippiLottery.com, MSLottery.us, MississippiLottery.us and MississippiLottery.org.

The MLC again accused the investor of cybersquatting, while the investor accused the MLC of Reverse Domain Name Hijacking. The Court finally decided against the domain investor and took the side of the MLC.

Interestingly, the introduction of a Lottery wasn’t a casual affair. The state comes in what many call the ‘Bible Belt’. The orthodox opinion was strictly against the introduction of gambling. However, provisions were introduced where the profit from the lottery would be used in the construction of highways and education. This somewhat increased the acceptability of the event. This social welfare initiative calmed down the feeling to some extent.

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