California court may hear Sex.com civil case

A dispute over the transfer of the domain name Sex.com may be heading to California's highest court.

In a decision published Friday, a panel of federal appellate judges asked the California Supreme Court to weigh in on the question of whether traditional property conversion laws should apply to Internet domain names.

"Although we are quite capable of resolving the issue presented, we should not reach out to grab the question in the first instance simply because the case involves a novel and 'sexy' issue," states the majority opinion submitted by judges Margaret McKeown and James Fitzgerald. The judges said the state's highest court should consider the type of property rights to extend to domain owners in civil cases.

The decision stems from a four-year-old legal battle between Sex.com owner Gary Kremen and Internet domain registry Network Solutions, now owned by VeriSign. Kremen claimed in a lawsuit that Network Solutions should be held accountable for an erroneous transfer that put the valuable Sex.com domain in the hands of a con artist.

Kathryn Karcher, an attorney for VeriSign's law firm, Gray Cary Ware & Friedenrich, declined to comment on the ruling. VeriSign officials could not be reached for comment.

Kremen said he wasn't looking forward to the prospect of more legal bills if the case winds up in the California Supreme Court but was pleased with Friday's decision.

"They clearly think this is a really important issue for Californians, and I think they're just trying to highlight that to make sure they get it absolutely right," he said.

But as Alex Kozinski, the lone dissenting judge in the case pointed out, there's no guarantee the state's high court will take the case. In his dissent, Kozinski noted that the state's high court has turned down a third of such requests submitted by the federal appeals court, a record he attributed to the California judges' already formidable caseload.

View: Court Opinion (PDF)

News source: Wired.com

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