Nintendo makes the Wii U game console, but it doesn't own WiiU.com. And according to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), there's no legal reason why it has to.
Although WiiU.com would be the most obvious URL choice for Nintendo's console, the Domain Privacy Group owns the domain name. The group first registered WiiU.com in 2004, a full seven years before Nintendo ever announced the device.
There was nothing prescient in the group's decision: Registering scattershot domain names is common practice. The Domain Privacy Group itself owns more than 350,000 Web addresses. Most are useless, but every once in a while, it happens to register a name for which a large company (like Nintendo) might shell out oodles of money.
Nintendo decided to try its hand in WIPO's proceedings. WIPO received Nintendo's complaint Feb. 16, and rendered a decision June 19: "Complaint denied."
"The disputed domain name was registered in 2004, whereas [Nintendo's] rights in the Wii mark arose in 2006, and [Nintendo's] rights in the Wii U mark arose in 2011," wrote Bradley A. Slutsky, the presiding panelist in the case, in the final decision. "Accordingly, the Panel concludes that [Nintendo] has not met its burden … of establishing that the disputed domain name has been registered in bad faith," the decision read.
At this point, the simplest way for Nintendo to acquire the WiiU.com domain name would be to simply buy it from the Domain Privacy Group. Nintendo, however, has no desire to give up this particular fight just yet.
"Nintendo has a strong history of protecting against infringement of our intellectual-property rights, and we are continuing to review our legal options," a Nintendo spokesman told Eurogamer. "This decision does not impact Nintendo's ability to enforce against violations concerning intellectual property."
Although Nintendo may, indeed, still have legal recourse, it hasn't ruled out buying domain names. When the first Wii console launched, Nintendo had to purchase the Wii.com domain from Weyerhaeuser, a paper company in Washington state, supposedly for a six-figure sum. [See also: E3: Is Nintendo Stuck in the 1990s? ]
Classic video game companies have a history of being contentious about domain names. In 2011, Atari took legal action to shut down fan site atari2600.org, which helped fans share and construct their own "homebrewed" games for the defunct system.
Nintendo is not alone in its woes: Microsoft is engaged in legal proceedings for the xboxone.com domain name (it belongs to Krasimir Hristov Ivanov, a man in the U.K.), and Sony does not own playstation4.com (it's the property of Poise Media Inc. in New York).
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