UAE car fans win legal tussle with Porsche over website
Carmaker Porsche has been thwarted in a legal bid to shut down a website set up by a group of Dubai petrolheads using the brand's name.
The renowned German sports car manufacturer took action after the group founded www.porschedxb.com.
Porsche took their case to the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) in Switzerland, claiming the site was in “bad faith” and an example of “domain name hijacking”.
However, the car enthusiasts, made up of Dubai resident Gaurav Khanna and three friends, won the case after they convinced the judge they were just a “car community fan website” and not a business.
The verdict, though, was a blow for Porsche. George Wills, the managing director for Porsche Middle East and Africa, told 7DAYS: “We feel that the domain www.porschedxb.com may give the impression to the public that it is an official Porsche website, which is obviously not the case.”
Porsche, estimated to be worth up to $12 billion, claimed at hearings that the site could introduce an online selling platform for cars in the UAE - and that the group were profiteering off the back of the firm’s prestigious name.
The claim was refuted when Khanna proved the site had made just 1.4 euros (Dhs6) from Google ads in three months.
The WIPO judge added that the website - which misspells the word Porsche on its front page banner - didn’t have the “look and feel” of an official Porsche site.
Khanna, based in the UAE for 12 years, told 7DAYS he and his friends were “delighted” by the outcome.
The enthusiasts launched the website - along with 20 similar sites bearing the brand names of other vehicle firms - as “Dubai’s first online car community”. Khanna, 32, said: “I have spoken to local dealers at other brands and they were fine with it.”
And it may not be the last time outlets in the UAE face action from international names though - British brands Tesco and Primark are examining their options after stores bearing their names recently opened in Dubai.
UAE-based intellectual property expert Gayle Hanlon, who works for the legal firm Curtis, said it was “very common” for companies to try and protect their brand name in such a fashion and that the value of it was “inestimable”.
“I used to work for a big computer company in the US and we pursued everything,” she told 7DAYS.
“Companies rigorously enforce their trademark - it’s extremely important.” She went on to add: “From an accounting point of view, it’s major value for the company.
“You can imagine how much Apple is worth as a name.”