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Nissan’s Appeal Over Website Rejected

From Times Staff and Wire Reports

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday turned away an appeal by Japanese automaker Nissan Motor Co. in its fight to block a North Carolina man from using his Nissan.net and Nissan.com websites to sell ads and make disparaging comments.

Nissan Motor, which has trademarked its name, says Uzi Nissan is diverting consumers looking for the automaker’s website. The justices made no comment in rejecting the appeal, included on a list of orders released in Washington.

The case now returns to U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, where the two sides are still battling over additional issues. Nissan North America, the automaker’s U.S. unit, is headquartered in Gardena.

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Uzi Nissan, who has used his last name in connection with various businesses since the 1980s, registered the Internet domain names in 1994 and 1996 to advertise a computer sales and service business, Nissan Computer Corp.

Nissan Motor sued in 1999 after Uzi Nissan began selling advertising space on his website. Nissan Motor said the entrepreneur was unfairly profiting from its brand recognition.

The San Francisco-based U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals issued a mixed ruling in August. Although the court barred Uzi Nissan from posting automobile-related advertising, it allowed other ads as well as a link to another site he operates -- www.ncchelp.org -- that criticizes Nissan Motor.

The appeals court also refused to order Uzi Nissan to transfer the domain names, saying Nissan Motor did not meet the requirements of a federal “cybersquatting” law.

Cybersquatting refers to the practice of registering an Internet address with the hope of selling it at a huge profit. In addition, a federal law -- the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act -- mandates fines of as much as $100,000 for people convicted of registering Internet names that infringe a registered trademark or a person’s name.

There was no immediate comment from either side.

The U.S. website of Tokyo-based Nissan Motor is www.nissanusa.com.

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Bloomberg News was used in compiling this report.


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