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Recent Case Notes & Commentary

THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM: Can you register a domain name in the name of a Cat?

Morgan Stanley v Meow (FA 0604000671304)

Complainant: Morgan Stanley

Respondent: Meow

Ten years ago Morgan Stanley, an international leader in investment banking and financial services, pursued domain name rights against a cat. Yes, that’s right, an international investment banking and financial services conglomerate was up against a cat.

This case note is a dedication to the beautiful decision “Morgan Stanley v Meow” (2006). This is truly a case that truly reveals that humour does exist within the legal industry (who would have thought?!).

What we would like to do now is just, once again, look at the magnificent application of brilliant meticulous legal reasoning by a Panelist who was faced with a very tricky dilemma. The domain name was in use by the cat. Its management had been exercised by one Mr Woods (with Meow’s authority, of course), who used the domain name <> to promote seminars to small and medium business on how big companies (ignorantly) “do not register obvious domain names”.

The Panelist, Richard Hill, ruled against declined this use of the domain name as a bona fide use of goods or services before tackling the issue of bad faith. In his final discussion Mr Hill justified his decision backed himself with two, yes two, trains of thought as to why the registration was done in bad faith.

The first reason for bad faith was that cats do not write nor read nor talk. Therefore, Meow, if actually a cat, must not be a domestic cat (i.e. a Felis Domesticus that we all know and love). If Meow is not a felis domesticus, as Hill reasoned, he must therefore be an outer space cat, such as the cat staring in the film “Cat from Outer Space”. This outer space cat, if acting in good faith, would therefore have put in their Response that they are in fact an outer space cat, and would also provide justified reasons as to why he let Mr Woods use the domain name. Unfortunately, Meow did not do this, and the Panelist therefore had no option but to announce his registration in bad faith.

For those sceptics out there, don’t worry – Mr Hill did grapple with the idea that perhaps Meow is not a cat. And if this is the case, then the true Respondent, a human (and most likely Mr Woods) undoubtedly attempted to mislead the Panel by providing incorrect WHOIS information. This action on its own constitutes bad faith and is indicative of the Respondent’s true intentions.

Ten years later Morgan Stanley v Meow still stands strongly for the proposition that if you are a cat involved in a domain name dispute, to be successful you must clearly indicate what type of reading-and-writing-outer-space cat you are and why you chose your human representative to manage the domain name. Otherwise, your laziness may be indicative of bad faith.

In any case remember that you only have nine lives, so don‘t push your luck.

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