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Monday, July 02, 2007, 03:00 pm PT (06:00 pm ET)

Apple secures iPhone.com for seven-figure sum — report

A last minute bid by Apple Inc. to acquire the iPhone.com domain ahead of the gadget's launch on Friday is reported to have netted its previous registrant a seven-digit sum.

Jay Westerdal of Name Intelligence claims in his company's DomainTools Blog that Apple has bought iPhone.com, reportedly taking control of the URL from domain owner Michael Kovatch for what could be "at least a million dollar sale."

Kovatch had registered the domain well before Apple chief Steve Jobs' return to his company, signing up for the address in 1995 and in more recent years using the site for an online cellphone store dubbed The Internet Phone Company. This gave him the legal right to use the site and to turn down Apple's offer — which he initially did, according to Westerdal. The owner was reportedly motivated by serious interest in using the site for profit.

"He was holding out because he truly wanted to use the domain," Westerdal said. "He considered not selling at the very end, [as] he had registered the domain back in 1995 and was building a company on the domain."

And Apple's January 2007 introduction of a device named the iPhone was largely beneficial, Kovatch allegedly told the Name Intelligence blogger. Site visits had grown dramatically since the phone's announcement, granting iPhone.com's then-owner far greater exposure. Apple's interest in the domain, however, is said to have been extremely high as the link between the product and the site was considered virtually necessary.

"That domain was so valuable that Apple just had to own it," Westerdal wrote. "The headaches would have just compounded [the situation] had they not owned the domain."

While the exact conditions of the purported sale were not disclosed, the seven-digit price would make the purchase one of the largest of its kind, rivaling the well-known Sex.com and similarly easy-to-remember addresses in terms of its obvious appeal.

Although the details of negotiations and the resulting financial compensation remain unconfirmed, a check of the ownership for iPhone.com confirms that its domain name servers belong to Apple and that ownership of the site was transferred at the last minute, reaching the iPhone maker through the domain registrar outlet GoDaddy on June 29th.