Government claims "Switzerland" domain

The Swiss authorities want the virtual Swiss as well swissinfo.ch

The federal authorities have filed a complaint with the World Intellectual Property Organisation (Wipo) over internet addresses referring to Switzerland.

This content was published on February 23, 2006 - 18:22

The state claims to have a legitimate right to three specific URLs - www.schweiz.ch, www.suisse.ch and www.svizzera.ch, registered by a Swiss businessman.

The federal authorities and the owner of the addresses, Stefan C. Frei, have been locked in a dispute since 2000.

But Frei has refused to hand over to the federal administration names that he registered in 1995.

It prompted the government to turn to the Geneva-based Wipo.

The administration says it wants to use the address in Switzerland's four national languages (German, French, Italian and Romansh) as the official government portal.

The address currently used is www.ch.ch.

Time and money

Frei said on Thursday he was confident that he would be allowed to keep the domain name.

He said he was not willing to hand over a name 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 is also an online sales platform for clothes, bags as well as Swiss icons 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 have made it clear that they are not willing to cut a financial deal, as they claim to have a legitimate right to the URLs.

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

A spokeswoman for the authorities expressed confidence that the government had a good chance of winning the dispute. A decision is expected within the next three months.

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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