NEW YORK (CNNfn) - Monday's $76 billion merger announcement between Glaxo Wellcome and SmithKline Beecham wasn't much of a surprise to some Web name speculators.|
Three of the most obvious choices for the new company, which will become the world's largest drug maker and operate under the new name Glaxo SmithKline, already have been taken, according to a search of the domain name database Register.com.
In this case, individual Web users, who speculated that Glaxo and SmithKline eventually would link up, registered Internet addresses combining the companies' names.
For several years, so-called "cybersquatters" have been registering the Internet names of big corporations or organizations in hopes of re-selling the addresses, or "domain names," for a handsome profit. However, new laws recently have been passed protecting corporations' trademark names online.
Registrar.com does not regulate who is entitled to what name, but instead leaves that to trademark arbitrators to decide, said spokeswoman Shonna Keogan. The company charges a nominal fee of $35 per year to register a domain name.
Perhaps the most obvious name for the combined drug company -- www.glaxosmithkline.com -- was registered by David Uriate, of Bilbao, Spain, in October, according to the database. Uriate did not respond to requests for comment by CNNfn Monday.
Another potential domain name for the new company, www.glaxosb.com, was registered in Korea in November, according to Registrar.com.
Melissa and Kenneth Kearstan of Morristown, N.J., registered a third potential domain name, www.smithklineglaxo.com, in October.
Mrs. Kearstan, who works in the pharmaceutical industry, told CNNfn that she bought the domain name on a whim as a gift for her husband, guessing that the two companies eventually would merge.
SmithKline (SBH) and Glaxo (GLX) first entered merger talks in February 1998, but the talks broke down over management differences.
SmithKline spokesman Brian Jones said Monday that the company was not surprised that some individual Web users had registered names combining SmithKline and Glaxo, since the firms had been engaged in earlier merger talks.
Jones said SmithKline already owns "the most obvious" domain name for the combined, British-based company, www.glaxosmithkline.co.uk. The company registered the name two years ago.
The company also holds other variations on the Glaxo-SmithKline combined name.
Jones said the two companies would legally pursue any other domains names they want to use.
"If there's any infringement of Glaxo, SmithKline trademarks, the trademark teams of the companies will pursue it," he said.
But Mrs. Kearstan said she has researched trademark law and believes that there is no legal reason why she can't hold a Web name combining the two companies' names.
"There's not that many laws on the Web right now," she said. "I don't abuse anything ... I use the Web and was thinking maybe I'll buy some domains, why not? Other people are doing it - why not me?"
In November, Mrs. Kearstan also bought the domain name www.pfizerlambert.com. Drug maker Pfizer Inc. (PFE) is trying to wrest control of acquisition target Warner-Lambert Co. (WLA) from rival suitor American Home Products Corp. (AHP).
"It's not going to turn into anything," she said. If Pfizer does buy Warner-Lambert, she speculates the new company "would just be Pfizer. I just figured that I would take a chance."
A ruling last week by an arbitrator for the World Intellectual Property Organization, a Geneva-based agency of the United Nations covering patents and trademarks, dealt a blow to cybersquatters seeking big payoffs.
The arbitrator ruled that a California resident who registered the domain name www.worldwrestlingfederation.com and offered to sell it to the World Wresting Federation (WWF) for a "significant profit" had acted in bad faith.
The arbitrator, California-based intellectual property lawyer Scott Donahey, said the domain name registered by the cybersquatter was "identical or confusingly similar" to the WWF's trademark, and that he had "no rights or legitimate interests" to the name.
-- from staff and wire reports