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Carolina Hurricanes Face Storm of Controversy Over Domain Name

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CARY — A Cary businessman is facing off against theNational Hockey League. The NHL wants him to turn over the name of his Web site, hurricanes.com.

Jeff Woods, a big-time hockey fan, runs a small Internet company. His Carolina Hurricanes tickets cost $14,000, and he has been a fan since the team moved to Raleigh.

The National Hockey League wants him to give up his rights to the Internet domain, Hurricanes.com. Woods approached the Canes with the domain name when he pitched developing the team's Web site.

"It's a tool we're using to get your business, but we are not cybersquatters," Woods says. "It is your domain. You're welcome to have it. We'll transfer it to you -- no questions asked."

The Canes turned down Woods, instead, choosing two other domain names. Tuesday, Woods got a registered letter -- a cease and desist order from NHL lawyers demanding he stop using the domain name, even a word as common as hurricanes.

Intellectual property attorneys like John Rittelmeyer say the domain name problem is growing.

"That's another big problem in that many corporations are making claim to what are considered to be generic words," he says.

The NHL is also demanding that theCanadian Wildlife Federationstop using the word "wild" as the name of its children's magazine. Wild is the name of Minnesota's new NHL team. Rittelmeyer says it is a common procedure.

"Because they have a battery of lawyers available to them, they feel as though they can write a cease and desist letter, institute arbitration proceedings or file a lawsuit," he says.

The Carolina Hurricanes and the NHL would not comment on the situation.

Woods is angered that the NHL did not ask him personally before sending the letter and feels an apology is in order. He does not plan to fight but, as a fan, he wants the Hurricanes to have the name.

"I think they're throwing away a fabulous opportunity to acquire the domain name from me for nothing," Woods says. "My offer still stands."

Fights over domain names can go either way. The family of the late musician Jimi Hendrix has just won his name used as a domain name by a Florida man.

Sting, trying to get the rights to his name, lost his case in arbitration.

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Tom Lawrence, Reporter
Edward Wilson, Photographer
Kamal Wallace, Web Editor

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