Google and oogle.com will continue to perplex web users for years to come, following a decision by America's National Arbitration Forum (NAF) to deny the search giant's request for the rights to the nearly identical domain name.
In its final decision, the NAF alleged that the similar domain had not been registered, nor is it being used in bad faith, as Google originally complained. Oogle.com will thus remain in the hands of Christopher Neuman, founder and CEO of Internet-hosting company Blue Arctic.
"The panel makes no findings with respect to whether the Disputed Domain Name is identical or confusingly similar to a trademark or service mark," the decision said.
Ultimately, the panel sided with Neuman, arguing that Google didn't own any trademark registrations for the site at the time of the original registration, 13 years ago. Google's trademark was registered in 1997.
Google had to prove three elements in order to win the domain name, or have it blotted out from Internet existence – that the domain name is confusingly similar to its own service, that Neuman does not have legitimate interest in the name, and that it had been registered and was being used in bad faith.
Google failed to establish any of them.
"Although [Google] states that 'Google has used the GOOGLE mark in US commerce in connection with its services since September 1997,' [Google] apparently did not own any trademark registrations for the mark on 7 February, 1999," when Neuman registered it, the panel said, adding that at the time, Google had received "only limited media attention."
Neuman claims to have registered the domain name in February 1999, when he was 13 years old. It was a favour to coder friend Justin Tunney, who went by the online nickname "Oogle," according to the National Arbitration Forum's decision.
In the late '90s, the domain oogle.com had not yet been registered, Neuman testified. With the intention of collaborating on a website with his coder friend, Neuman snatched the name, not "ever for a second" considering that it could cause any trouble with Google's registered trademark.
Oogle.com was at one point used as an online shopping website, the Forum reported, before being turned into a forum for programmers. It was also used temporarily linked to an adult matchmaking service, which Neuman said he believed was lawful and permissible.
In 2009, Neuman attempted to sell the domain name to Google for $600,000 (£380,000), though the search company declined the offer.
Google reported in its original complaint that the oogle.com name is currently on sale at auction for $300,000, or £190,730 based on today's exchange rate.