Scooter Maker Segway Rides In To Block Internet Confusion

More and more companies do most of their business on the Internet and the need to maintain a clearly identifiable website brand and avoid the risk of customer confusion is paramount. One case involving well-known scooter manufacturers Segway Inc. illustrated the point.

Segway’s battery-powered, self-stabilising scooters have become a familiar sight on Britain’s streets and the company complained to Internet watchdog Nominet after a businessman registered the web domain name Segway claimed that the website was being used to market directly competing scooters and that the similarity between the two words was clearly confusing to web users.

The businessman responded that he had never sought affiliation with the protected Segway brand nor to ride on the coat-tails of the company’s good name. He argued that the term Swegway is used worldwide on social media to describe handle-free scooters of the type he sells, which are very different from Segways. Many other traders, including a large supermarket chain, were said to be engaged in selling scooters described as Swegways.

A Nominet expert rejected the company’s arguments that the businessman was guilty of typosquatting – taking advantage of web users’ typing mistakes and the proximity of the ‘e’ and ‘w’ keys on QWERTY keyboards. Allegations that he had registered the domain name in the opportunistic hope of selling it to the company were also dismissed.

However, the expert ruled that the domain name took unfair advantage of Segway’s reputation and that the high degree of similarity between the two names gave rise to a serious risk that users who were interested in purchasing a Segway would be inadvertently diverted to the businessman’s site. In those circumstances, the registration was abusive and the businessman was directed to transfer the domain name to Segway forthwith.