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Gun-control group Handgun Control, Inc., along with its legal arm, the Center to Prevent Handgun Violence, have threatened to file a lawsuit against a pro-gun rights organization, claiming the pro-gun group is “cyber-squatting” because it has a similar website address.

And the threatened legal action has prompted the pro-gun rights organization to file a suit of its own against Handgun Control, Inc.

The pro-gun rights organization, called the Center For the Prevention of Handgun Violence, has an Internet URL of http://www.cphv.com. The group also owns the domain names handguncontrol.net and cphv.net — identical names to those of the gun-control sites, except those have .org suffixes.

The pro-gun rights sites are operated by Liberty Watch, which received a letter Oct. 20, 2000, from lawyers representing Handgun Control, Inc. and the Center to Prevent Handgun Violence, stating that the “Center to Prevent Handgun Violence and CPHV are valid service marks of HCI/CPHV. Your registration and use of the cphv.com domain name infringes upon HCI/CPHV’s marks in violation of section 43(a) of the Lanham Act.”

The letter, written by Alison F. Ivey, a Seattle attorney, cited the Anti-Cybersquatting Consumer Protection Act of 1999, embodied in Public Law No. 106-133, which “provides for injunctive relief and statutory damages for infringing domain name registrations and use.”

“Additionally, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers has recently adopted the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (the ‘UDRP’). The UDRP permits a service mark owner to invoke an administrative proceeding to compel the transfer of an infringing domain name,” the letter said.

Ivey said, “We are confident” a court would rule in favor of HCI/CPHV, adding that the gun-control organization “is prepared to pursue all remedies at law and equity to protect its marks.”

Ivey gave Liberty Watch 20 days to respond.

Norman Malinski, an attorney for the pro-gun rights group, in a letter of his own, questioned HCI’s claim “to ownership of common English words — such as hand gun control — to the extent that your clients claim the right to deny the use of these words by others in their exercise of constitutionally guaranteed rights to freedom of speech and political expression.

“In spite of what I believe to be an unreasonable attempt to restrict the rights guaranteed by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, I offered to craft mutually acceptable disclaimers in order that our respective clients could co-exist, each having the right to publish their information and material,” Malinski said.

“There has been no response to this offer, other than your communication to me that your clients are unyielding in their demand for my client to cease the use of what can only be characterized as plain English,” he added.

“Having attempted to work with you on a reasonable compromise, and having failed in that effort, I can now advise you that my client flatly refuses to relinquish ownership of its registered domain names,” said Malinski.

In response to the threatened action by Handgun Control, Inc. — which was founded and is now led by Sarah Brady, wife of Reagan Press Secretary James Brady, who was wounded during a 1981 attack against the president in Washington, D.C. — Liberty Watch filed suit against Handgun Control.

According to a statement, Liberty Watch filed suit Dec. 4, 2000, asking “a Miami-Dade (Florida) federal court to rule in favor of free, protected and privileged speech under the First Amendment.”

“Liberty Watch expects a protracted battle … and fully intends to win,” the statement said.

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