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Website Squatter Loses Newport News Appeal

RICHMOND, Va. (CN) - Website domain collector Virtual City Vision lost its appeal against Newport News, a women's clothing chain, when the 4th Circuit affirmed a ruling that Virtual's www.NewportNews.com website dilutes Newport News' trademark.

The ruling ends a legal battle between the clothing store and Virtual City Vision that has lasted for more than a decade.

Newport News lost its original complaint against Virtual and Van James Bond Tran, the company's president and only employee, in 2000 because Tran's website at the time offered tourism-related information on the city of Newport News, Va.

Newport News, the clothing chain, offered to buy Tran's site in 2007, but its offer was rejected. Instead, Virtual "responded that it would sell the domain name for a 'seven-figure' amount, or, in the alternative, sell [Newport News] goods on its website for a commission," according to the court's opinion.

That's when Tran shifted the focus of the site from city information to women's fashion and advertisements for women's apparel.

In 2009 Newport News won summary judgment against Tran and was awarded statutory damages and attorney's fees.

Tran and Virtual City Vision appealed, claiming that that the presiding federal judge failed to consider their motion for recusal and that the court did not have personal jurisdiction over Tran. It also appealed the award of summary judgment to Newport News and its denial of Virtual's request to file a counterclaim.

Fourth Circuit Judges Wilkenson, Motz and Duncan denied the appeal, upholding the opinion of the district court.

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