*Phonewords and their Rights of Use

571px-Telephone-keypad2.svg

I have to admit I’ve never heard about “Phonewords” before reading on the IPKat’s blog that Julian Gyngell will address this issue in an informal meeting on the 14th of July 17:30 at the city office of McDermott Will & Emery .

Of course I was quick to google the thing and I found out that “Phonewords” are (according to Wikipedia):

(also known as vanity numbers in the USA) are alphanumeric equivalents of a telephone number. In many countries, there exist letters corresponding to each digit on a telephone keypad. The letters corresponding to a particular telephone number can form a word, a partial word, an acronym, abbreviation, or an alphanumeric combination; these are known as phonewords.

Gyngell gave a rief introduction into this topic, shortly summarizing what he is going to speak about:

“Organisations pay handsomely (sometimes millions of dollars) for phonewords because they believe that the phoneword will help increase telephone communications with their business (and hence increase sales and their goodwill with customers). However, the rights of use conferred by the issuing authority in the country in question are limited to the specific underlying telephone number itself and the purchaser’s proprietary rights in the phoneword (if any) will depend on the phoneword in question and, in particular, whether

c. the steps that it should take to further protect its investment”.

a. the purchaser owns a trade mark (registered or unregistered) which corresponds to the phoneword (or the key word in the phoneword) or

b. the rights of third parties that might conflict with its use of the phoneword and

c. conversely, another organisation owns a trade mark (registered or unregistered) that corresponds to the phoneword (or the key word in the phoneword).

I plan to review a number of recent cases, including some very recent WIPO domain name decisions involving phonewords, and advise that a purchaser of a telephone number that is a phoneword needs to be acutely aware of a number of important factors if it is to maximise the potential return on its investment.

Quickly checking my schedule I am afraid that I won’t be able to attend, but a big thanks to the Kat fro bringing this issue to my attention.

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