|Newsbowl.com gets you a grade-school education site. Newsbowl.org gets you a medical marijuana site.
The owner of a grade-school educational website says he’s worried he’ll be run out of business by a medical marijuana site with an almost identical name.
Peter Vavak, owner of Newsbowl.com
, said he fears students will mistakenly log on to marijuana site Newsbowl.org
and find information on how to buy medical marijuana instead of the school quizzes they were expecting, reports Ken Contrata at Fox News
Even worse, Vavak fears, parents could see their children go to the marijuana “dot-org” site, call their teachers, and cancel their subscriptions to his educational “dot-com” site.
|Photo: Peter Vavak’s Facebook
|Peter Vavak, Newsbowl.com: “They believe the exact opposite of what our ideals are.”
”We’re trying to create lifelong learners, and self-motivated learners,” said Vavak, a former Nebraska middle school teacher who was a web pioneer, starting Newsbowl.com 15 years ago as a tool for teachers to encourage students’ interest in current events.
About a thousand schools subscribe to Newsbowl.com’s weekly tests, including Jeopardy-style current events quizzes, and a monthly “Brain Challenge,” a multiple-choice school-wide and nationwide student competition.
“In an education market, we have to be perfect,” fretted Vavak, explaining his concern that a controversial marijuana site that shares a name could be enough for a school to cancel its subscription.
Vavak claims “News Bowl” was trademarked when he started the company in 1995, but the “dot-org” marijuana site continues to use the name to share news and information on “legally obtained cannabis for medical purposes.”
He’s not gotten any complaints yet, Vavak said, but some teachers have already expressed concerns that students may accidentally go to the medical marijuana site.
“I have serious concerns that we could have young students ending up on this other website by mistake,” said News Bowl subscriber Tom Wagner, a social studies teacher in Pettisville, Ohio. “Everything that can be done to avoid our young students wandering into a possible drug-related website should be done.”
Vavak claimed he had tried to contact the creators of Newsbowl.org when he recently discovered the existence of the site, but identity protection maneuvers have kept the website owner’s identity secret.
Newsbowl.org, the marijuana site, was registered in May 2006 under a company called “Domains By Proxy, Inc.,” an Arizona company that registers websites for individuals to keep personal names and contact information out of the Public Interest Registry.
Since he has been unable to contact Newsbowl.org’s creators, Vavak’s lawyer, who asked not to be named, is trying to prevent the medical marijuana website from being recognized by search engines.
He’s already sent “take down” letters to several search engines, alerting them to the possible trademark infringement, as well as one to Twitter, asking it to remove its “newsbowlorg” account.
“Being the owner of the trademark does give Vavak certain legal rights against others using the name, including domain names,” said Doug Isenberg, an attorney who specializes in domain name disputes.
Vavak remains frustrated because, in his opinion, his “News Bowl” name is being misused by bad people.
“We’re talking about a dichotomy of idealism here,” he said. “They believe the exact opposite of what our ideals are.”
Vavak seemed to be completely unaware of the irony of his statement, given the fact that both sites are dedicated to educational information.