British Billionaire Wins Back Dirty Domain Name

Dennis Faas's picture

British business tycoon Richard Branson has prevailed in one of the first high-profile test cases of the new triple-x website address system.

A US tribunal ruled that Australian Sean Truman acted in bad faith registering the domain name, and ordered it be turned over to Branson immediately. (Source:

Notably, Branson had not protected his name under the rules governing the new top-level domain. His victory may therefore lead more people challenging similar unwanted registrations.

After a lengthy, controversial debate, the red-light domains debuted last year. Supporters argued it would help parents filter out unsuitable web content by simply blocking all adult mannered websites, and that all such sites would be regularly virus-checked.

Critics, however, call the triple-x domain registration a moneymaking scheme that could facilitate government censorship, and wouldn't stop skin-flick websites from continuing to use .com and similar suffixes.

Legit Name Owners Get First Refusal

In setting up the triple-x domain, administrators set rules to minimize disputes. For example, only people with legal claims to names could register them as .xxx addresses, allowing legitimate business owners to block their names from potentially embarrassing use.

Lawyers for Branson, who owns the Virgin group of companies, say he intended to register but failed to do so by four days after the deadline. That's when Truman registered it for himself. (Source:

Truman acted within the rules, but Branson nevertheless pursued the matter. Although Branson is based in the United Kingdom and Truman in Australia, the domain in question was registered via American registrar company, GoDaddy.

That allowed Branson to bring his case to the US National Arbitration Forum, a body that settles domain issues without the complexity and expense of a standard court case.

Defendant Calls Disputed Web Address A 'Souvenir'

Truman attempted three defenses:

  • That Branson's own name should not have the same protection as his Virgin trademarks;
  • That Truman admired Branson and registered the name only as a souvenir;
  • That Truman did not intend running a website using the address.

The Arbitration Forum rejected all of these arguments. It ruled there was clear-cut evidence that Truman had registered the address only because it contained the name of a public figure, and that Truman knew he had no legitimate claim to the address.

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