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Government awarded "Swiss" web addresses

The government has won the dispute over the "Swiss" domain names swissinfo.ch

The World Intellectual Property Organisation (Wipo) has awarded the government the right to use three internet addresses referring to Switzerland.

This content was published on May 29, 2006 - 12:38

The authorities had been locked in a dispute since 2000 with a Swiss businessman who had registered www.schweiz.ch, www.suisse.ch and www.svizzera.ch ("Switzerland" in German, French and Italian) in 1995.

The Geneva-based institution's ruling, published on Monday, means the government can now officially use the terms "schweiz", "suisse" and svizzera", which they already use when entering into international treaties and conventions.

Wipo, a United Nations body, said Stefan Frei, the previous owner of the three domain names, could no longer make a valid claim to their ownership.

It said Frei had used the recognition value of the words "schweiz", "suisse" and svizzera" to attract internet traffic to his website to the detriment of the federal authorities.

It added, however, that Frei could appeal to the regular courts. If he did not do this within 20 working days, the address would be handed over.

The Swiss authorities said they want to use the addresses in Switzerland's four national languages as the national online service centre. The address currently used is www.ch.ch.

They already own the Romansh website (www.svizra.ch).

Investment

Bern had filed a complaint with Wipo in February, claiming a legitimate right to three specific addresses: www.schweiz.ch, www.suisse.ch and www.svizzera.ch. All had been registered by Frei in 1995.

But Frei said he was unwilling to hand over the names after investing a "considerable amount of time and money".

His commercial site lists texts and links dealing with Swiss politics and history, as well as links to sites of the authorities, and offers a range of services, including free email addresses, travel tips and access to a dating agency for singles.

It also sells clothes, bags and Swiss logos for mobile phones.

Frei said he had been offered substantial amounts of money for the addresses on various occasions but had always declined.

For their part, the federal authorities made it clear that they were not willing to cut a financial deal as they claimed a legitimate right to the URLs.

The authorities said the country's highest court had set a precedent when it ruled in favour of local authorities in two similar disputes about local domain names.

swissinfo with agencies

In brief

The federal, cantonal and local authorities launched www.ch.ch in 2000 as the national online service centre.

The joint project cost SFr18 million ($13.7 million) and was fully operational a year ago.

The site underwent an overhaul following criticism over costs and because the service is apparently not well known.

The multi-language site (in German, French and Italian, with plans for a version in English) is now a national portal on information on the public authorities.

The site www.schweiz.ch was launched in 1995 as a private business venture.

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