Google loses domain dispute to Canadian startup

Tiny website Groovle gets to keep its name after a three-person panel threw out Google's claim of domain confusion.

For the second time in a week, a technology titan has been legally humbled by a small Canadian company.

Last week, it was Microsoft losing an appeal regarding its Word software to Toronto-based i4i. This time it's Google, which on Tuesday lost a domain dispute to Oakville, Ont.-based Groovle, a website that allows users to upload photos and create a customized online portal.

A three-person panel composed of two retired American judges and one law professor rejected Google's claim that the smaller website's name was "confusingly similar," effectively giving it clearance to continue operating. The panel was working under the auspices of the National Arbitration Forum, which is empowered by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, the international body that governs the internet.

The case is only the second time Google has lost a domain name dispute in 65 actions, with the other being Froogles in 2004.

Groovle's founders, who started their site in 2007, were pleased with the decision, but regretted that the dispute had to go to arbitration.

"Google never had anything to fear from our website," said founder Jacob Fuller in a statement. "The arbitrators' decision that the two domain names are sufficiently different should put Google at ease and we look forward to a renewed positive relationship with Google."

A spokesperson for Google Canada did not immediately comment on the case.

The decision follows a ruling last week by the U.S. Federal Appeals Court that upheld an earlier injunction banning Microsoft Word sales in the United States. Microsoft had been found guilty of infringing on a patent held by Toronto-based i4i and was ordered to pay the small firm $290 million US.

Microsoft said it would change the code in Word in order to continue sales.