Virgin Group chairman wins battle for .xxx domain

March 8, 2012

The man known for using sexually suggestive advertising to sell his products and owner of a company dubbed Virgin recently won a legal battle to gain control over richardbranson.xxx. Source.

Virgin Group Chairman Richard Branson filed a UDRP complaint against Sean Truman, who, according to the decision, is not in the adult entertainment industry, but instead says he registered the domain name as a “souvenir” of his “admiration” for Branson. Truman also said he had no intention to host a website at the domain. Indeed, the webpage was blank when the complaint was filed, with the exception of ads placed by GoDaddy.com.

The National Arbitration Forum concluded that the domain was registered in bad faith and transferred the domain name to Branson. Once transferred, the site apparently will no longer display a web page. Looks like the Virgin name will remain, like most other self-proclaimed virgins, outwardly pristine.


Don’t you “Krave” an interesting cybersquatting case?

November 26, 2011

By J. DeVoy

Vegas Inc., which provides excellent coverage of Las Vegas’ legal developments (such as its remarkable dedication to the Righthaven saga), reports on a lawsuit filed by the operator of Piranha Night Club and 8 1/2 Ultra Lounge against Krave over the domain name <piranhalv.com>.  Historical note: from 2004 to 2008, Krave was home to the theatrical adaptation of John Stagliano’s / Evil Angel Video’s Fashionistas.

The Complaint is available here.  It alleges a fairly common cybersquatting claim: The <piranhalv.com> domain name was registered by Krave’s operators and its agents in derogation of Piranha’s trademark rights, as it was supposedly done to mislead and confuse the consuming public.  The Complaint also alleges trademark infringement under 15 U.S.C. § 1125(a) and at common law; it goes on to seek an injunction, and a declaration that the Piranha Night Club’s operator is the proper owner of the domain name.

In the Complaint’s other causes of action, though, it invokes some claims one doesn’t always (or even often) see in trademark matters: Unfair, Deceptive and Fraudulent Business Practices under NRS 598A; Intentional Interference with Prospective Economic Advantage; Tortious Interference with Contractual Relations, and; Piercing the Corporate Veil under NRS 74.787 (since the domain name registrant is a party other than Krave’s owners/operators).

The case is Manhattan West LLC v. Century Partners Ltd. et al., 2:11-cv-01898 in the District of Nevada, and may be worth a PACER notification for those interested in trademark and domain name disputes.


Abercrombie & Fitch brings guns to bear on cybersquatters

December 14, 2010

Lets say you go to the website “abercrombieandfitchstore.com.” What would you expect to find there? Probably not what you see below.

That’s cybersquatting, and it is illegal.

Abercrombie & Fitch have had enough, and they’ve brought suit against the as yet unidentified owners of more than 150 infringing domain names. Most of them are Pay Per Click sites, and it is pretty clear that the plaintiff should prevail.

As many readers might know, when a plaintiff takes aim at a cybersquatter, there are two avenues of attack — bring suit in federal court (which is generally more expensive) or file a nice, quick, and cheap UDRP complaint. In this case, Abercrombie opted for the former, but this seems to be a tactically (and financially) sound decision. Under the UDRP, you need to pay filing fees according to how many domain names you are going after, and the complaint can only be against a single cybersquatter. In this case, there may be dozens of defendants. Even if there happened to be only a single defendant, the UDRP filing fees would likely be in the range of $20,000, given the sheer number of domain names.

Despite the fact that most of the domain names are clearly infringing, there are some puzzling additions. In addition to the clearly infringing “bercrombie.com,” and “wwwhollister.com,” the complaint says that “ant.com,” “asnf.com,” “hcos.org,” and “fierce.org” are also in violation of Abercrombie’s famous trademarks. I’m just not seeing the infringement there. While some go to pay per click pages (yuck) and others are dead links, ant.com seems to be a search engine.

Which makes you wonder, why would such great attorneys make such a seeming blunder?

I suspect that Abercrombie’s lawyers know that these non-infringing domain names are owned by the same people who own some of the clearly infringing domains. Cybersquatters usually default in these cases, leaving the plaintiff with little financial satisfaction for all of its trouble. Ant.com is worth somewhere in the neighborhood of $300,000 or more. With that kind of domain at stake, someone is certain to come forward rather than risk losing that kind of online property in a default.

I have mixed feelings about that kind of tactic. On one hand, I have serious misgivings about a clearly non-infringing domain name being added into a complaint.

Abercrombie & Fitch was going about its business, selling clothes modeled by white people and beloved by Asians. Then, some unscrupulous cybersquatters started infringing on A&F’s intellectual property rights. A&F then had to hire expensive lawyers to clean up the problem. I believe that the cybersquatters should, at least, pay A&F’s attorneys fees. But, if they are hiding and simply default, then A&F will be out a serious chunk of money, while the wrongdoers run off scot free, with their pay per click fees in their pockets. If A&F is trying hold something hostage in order to smoke them out, I respect that tactical decision.

Ultimately, if the cybersquatters do default and they don’t pay the judgment, then A&F can likely foreclose on their entire domain portfolio. If the only thing of value in that portfolio is ant.com or some other non-infringing domain names, then A&F may have done well to at least lock the domain name down while the litigation is pending.

H/T: Mike Atkins

Bias alert: I am proud to say that the lawyers for A&F are friends of mine.


Dumbass Typosquatter of the Day

April 13, 2010

Some dumbass registered thousands of typosquatting domains. A handful of them were typosquatting on Microsoft’s trademarks, so Microsoft sued him for $2.4 million. Now the dumbass wants to just hand over the domain names and call it a day, and if Microsoft doesn’t like it, he’s not going to bother to answer the complaint. (source)

Lemme know how that works out for you, dumbass.

I deal with idiots like this all the time. They register infringing domain names, make a few bucks off them, and then think that the remedy should be my client sending a nice “please cut it out” letter — and then all bygones are bygones.

Only an idiot like this could make Microsoft look like it was wearing the white hat.


Cybersquatter gets his Comeuppance

October 15, 2009

Ah pity da fool who thinks he be judgment proof!  I got ya judgment proof right here, foo!!!!!

Ah pity da fool who thinks he be judgment proof! I got ya judgment proof right here, foo!!!!!

Cybersquatters often either hide offshore, or they claim to be offshore, or they claim that they don’t have any money — ergo they are “judgment proof.”

Well, Marc Trachtenberg, the domain law equivalent of Mr. T, just kicked a cybersquatters’s ass. The squatter decided that he would rather not pay the $120,00 judgment. Since he believed that he was outside the reach of the U.S. courts, he just ignored it. Trachtenberg loaded up the van and brought a plan together — he foreclosed on the cybersquatter’s domain name portfolio.

Judgment Debtor Luis Zavala (“Zavala”) and any and each of his agents, servants, employees, registrars, registry, and attorneys, and those persons enabling or in active concert or participation with Zavala shall transfer to Bosh his domain name holdings, including but not limited to those holdings identified in Exhibit F of the Declaration of Marc Trachtenberg in Support of the Application. This order includes the operator of the “.com” top-level domain, Verisign, Inc., which is hereby ordered to immediately disable Zavala’s domain name holdings by changing the nameserver entries to nameserver entries designated by Bosh and transfer Zavala’s domain name holdings to Bosh’s registrar of choice. (source)

This is good news. If a cybersquatter is stealing from your business, you should have some recourse to collect a judgment. Now, Mr. T can auction off the domains (at least those that don’t infringe on anyone else’s trademark), and Mr. Zavala just lost his pay per click income from 800 domain names.


Glenn Beck’s WIPO Complaint

September 28, 2009

wipo logoA very interesting case that Marc is handling.

He filed this Response (don’t forget the annexes) to Glenn Beck’s Complaint (exhibits included) yesterday.

UPDATE: He has requested that Mr. Beck stipulate to the First Amendment applying to these proceedings. I will update you when Beck responds.

ANOTHER UPDATE — ROUND TWO:

Glenn Beck filed a supplemental filing.
The Arbitrator accepted it and asked for a surreply.
The surreply — (and the exhibits to it)

Marc asked that LS’s editors/writers publish no further commentary on the case until a decision is rendered. However, there is commentary and analysis here.

He has further asked that any comments to this post should be respectful to both Mr. Beck and his attorneys.


Online UDRP

September 8, 2009

I finally took a stab at filing a UDRP proceeding with the Czech Arbitration Court (my previous go-to was WIPO, and I’d never use NAF). What attracted me? Online filing! It is about time that someone recognizes that UDRP proceedings are a 21st century phenomenon, and perhaps they should be handled as such. Accordingly, imagine my joy when I found that the CAC takes its filings electronically!

Oh, but you still have to send four copies of the complaint via courier.

Well, so much for my delight.

It still seems a little easier. There is an online case management platform. I will continue to post reviews of the process.


Tiffany Shepherd, From Bikini-Claid Bait Girl to Porn to Cybersquatting Victim

September 2, 2009
First the victim of Flori-duh's social conservatives, now the victim of a cybersquatter.

First the victim of Flori-duh's social conservatives, now the victim of a cybersquatter.

Tiffany Shepherd, the Port Saint Lucie schoolteacher who was fired from her job because she worked on a fishing charter boat in a bikini has decided to make the jump into adult entertainment.

Unfortunately, after being the victim of puritanical flori-duh social conservatives, she is now the victim of scumbag cybersquatters. It looks like one person registered TiffanyShepherd.com, and is using the site to refer traffic to a UK dating site. A domain name corresponding to Tiffany’s stage name, Leah Lust, has also been registered by what seems to be another opportunist. Although the site is not currently displaying any content, it is registered to a privacy service. I bet you a dozen donuts that Ms. Shepherd isn’t the one behind that privacy wall.

Shepherd told the Miami Examiner that she is entering the adult movie market because that is the only way she can make a living now that she lost her teaching job. Unfortunately, she won’t get too far when she isn’t managing her publicity rights effectively, and some sleaze is profiting from them instead.


Wisconsin Secretary of State’s Domain Hijacked

August 3, 2009

XBiz reports that the Wisconsin Secretary of State, Doug La Follette, woke up one day to find that his website, douglafollette.com had become a “porn site.” Apparently La Follette didn’t see it as valuable after he completed his political campaign, so he let it drop. Soon thereafter, as happens with any and all dropped domains, a domain taster picked it up. Detecting some traffic, the site became a sponsored links page. It just so happened that the links were porn related.

The cybersqatter offered to sell the domain back to La Follette for $361. La Follette called that “porn extortion.” It also seems to be a violation of 15 U.S.C. Sect. 1129. See also, Personal Names and the ACPA.


New 11th Circuit ACPA Case

July 24, 2009

Southern Grouts & Mortars, Inc. v. 3M Company, No 08-15850 (11th Cir. July 23, 2009). I would write about it, but my good friend Darren Spielman already did at defendmydomain.com – here.


Domain Privacy Service Can Be Liable Under the ACPA

May 19, 2009
The wrong approach for a domain privacy service.

The wrong approach for a domain privacy service.

The Central District of California just issued this thoughtful, reflective, and lengthy opinion in a case two of my Los Angeles partners and I are working on.

Web hosting company, Solid Host, took the position that a domain privacy service should be held responsible for the actions of one of its customers, when that customer was a hacker who stole a Solid Host’s domain name, and the privacy service took a “not our problem” approach to the theft.

From a trademark practitioner perspective, the really interesting part is that the court sustained the viability of a claim that a privacy service may be contributorily liable under the ACPA for its customer’s actions.

While this is not a final ruling in the case, the theory that a privacy service can be held liable for the actions of its customers has passed its first test, and got past the privacy service’s motion to dismiss.

See Solid Host v. NameCheap, et.al.


Goldman Sachs Tries To Bully Blogger

April 14, 2009

 I've got news for you: the Supreme Court has roundly rejected prior restraint!<br>  So Goldmansachs666.com will remain up as this case slowly winds its way through the courts like the man in the black pajamas wound his way through the jungles of 'Nam.

I've got news for you: the Supreme Court has roundly rejected prior restraint!
So Goldmansachs666.com will remain up as this case slowly winds its way through the courts like the man in the black pajamas wound his way through the jungles of 'Nam.

Michael Morgan is a Florida blogger who is a little bit upset with Goldman Sachs and its business practices. To voice his displeasure, he registered the domain name goldmansachs666.com and goldmansachs13.com and forwarded them to his blog on the financial giant.

Naturally, Goldman Sachs doesn’t like to be criticized. Who does? Nevertheless, I fail to see how they could have perceived Morgan as a threat to their financial well being or anything else. The fact is, Mr. Morgan’s blog just isn’t that good. The layout is visually painful. The writing isn’t engaging. After muddling through it for about 15 minutes, I still don’t really get what all the fuss is about. In other words, Morgan’s blog was destined for the blogger derelict heap. Morgan has a full time job, had very few readers, and probably would have either gotten bored with his griping, or his blog would have been ignored to death.

With Morgan’s blog plodding along in obscurity, enter John A. Squires of Chadbourne and Parke, LLP. Now this guy has an impressive background: He was top of his class in law school, on his law school’s moot court team, on law review, and an Order of the Coif inductee. Sounds like a pretty smart guy, no? Smart enough to become co-chair of the intellectual property practice at a major law firm. Smart enough that he “is widely recognized in both the financial services and technology sectors as one of the country’s top experts on the issue of patent-eligible technologies.”

Goldman Sachs' demand letter <br>Click to enlarge

Goldman Sachs' demand letter
Click to enlarge

Nevertheless, he put his name to one of the dumbest trademark demand letters I have ever read. Go ahead, click it. If you practice trademark law, don’t drink any liquids while reading or you’ll shoot them out your nose as you’re laughing and then you might have to change your shirt.

This letter seems to anecdotally confirm two things I’ve preached for years:

1) Patent guys don’t necessarily know trademark law,

2) A lawyer who doesn’t understand public relations is only half a lawyer.

I’m just guessing here, but I’m reasonably certain that Mr. Squires did know better. This demand letter just screams “reluctantly written to shut a client up.” Patent lawyer or not, the guy had to know that his trademark claims were just plain stupid. If goldmansachs666.com creates confusion in the marketplace, then I guess that I had better stop calling my balls my “nutsack,” because someone might come along and expect them to sweat stock options.

Personally, I would never have affixed my signature to this piece of dung. I’ve learned the art of “client control.” That’s when you tell someone “my credibility is worth more than what you want to pay me to write this unsupportable demand letter.” Sadly, many lawyers never learn this skill. I’m certain that some tool at Goldman Sachs told Squires “I don’t care if we can’t back the claims up, just send the letter to try and scare this little mouse of a blogger.” (Or maybe I’m just inclined to give the lawyer the benefit of the doubt).

Although I would love to say that I would continue to that same big shiny set of brass balls if my client were a gazillion dollar financial powerhouse that shits rubies, I won’t judge Mr. Squires until I walk a mile in his Bruno Maglis — especially since I’m 98% certain that somewhere, he has an email to his client telling them that the claims in the letter are just one molecule away from being pure pharmaceutical-grade fecal goodness.

At least I hope so… because the mouse, he bite.

Squires’ letter ends with a threat that if Morgan doesn’t confirm, in writing, that he will stop using the words “Goldman” and “Sachs,” they just might sue him. Well, April 18 is a Saturday, Walter Sobchak doesn’t roll on Shabbos, and Mike Morgan did respond in writing — with a lawsuit of his own.

Morgan probably figured that if Goldman Sachs wasn’t bluffing, they would file suit against him in New York. Morgan lives in Florida, and would likely rather just have it out in Florida than travel to New York. So, given that there was a bona fide legal question — created by Squires’ dumb letter, Morgan had the right to file suit to just get the whole thing over with. Naturally, Goldman Sachs probably isn’t too worried about the financial consequences of this suit. The most that Morgan will win is a piece of paper that says he has the right to use the words “Goldman” and “Sachs” to criticize Goldman Sachs. But what a piece of paper it will be.

More importantly, now that he has filed suit, a lot more people are going to take note of this dispute. I’ve been following it for a little while myself, and until I received a copy of Morgan’s complaint, I didn’t really find it interesting enough to write about. Guy gripes. Company whines. Dumb demand letter. Yawn. Happens every day.

What doesn’t happen every day is that the griper has the coglioni to tell one of the biggest financial institutions in the world “You wanna step outside? Fine, lets go.

So now what happens?

Hopefully, Mr. Squires tells his client “I told you so,” and keeps a copy of the memo he sent them telling them that this was all a really dumb idea and that they should have just ignored Mr. Morgan’s blog. If he didn’t tell them so, then someone at Goldman Sachs should re-think how they choose their attorneys.

Once that is all settled, Goldman Sachs should just gracefully back away from this — issue a statement that they reconsidered their position, and it all goes away. The first rule of getting out of a hole is to stop digging. However, I predict the opposite will happen: Goldman Sachs will dig in, the Spin Doctors song “Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong” will be played over the PA system at Chadbourne and Parke, and we will see both an answer and a counterclaim that will be just one hair shy of being frivolous enough to warrant sanctions because some nitwit will think that it will scare Morgan into submission… and the case will draw even more attention to this once-obscure blog.

And then we’ll see if Mr. Morgan’s reporting on Goldman Sachs’ misdeeds grows any legs. He already has a conference call scheduled to gather the volunteers who have rallied to his side.


I Told You So, GoDaddy!

April 14, 2009

godaddyboobs

Thomas O’Toole writes about how one of my theoretical posts has now come to life.

Prof. Marc Randazza had a great post Is GoDaddy a Mass Cybersquatter? on his Legal Satyricon and, while it’s great fun to muse about these things hypothetically, I think everyone agrees that live action is best. Now we have it in Ubid Inc. v. Godaddy Group Inc., No. 09-2123 (N.D. Ill., complaint filed April 6, 2009).

Read the rest of O’Toole’s piece, Click Ads on GoDaddy Parked Pages Draw Cybersquatting Suit.

And thank you Thomas for noticing!


Cybersquatter Makes Good

December 16, 2008

The Bush library team seems as incompetent as… well, as incompetent as you would imagine anyone involved with such a project would be. They procured the domain name http://www.GeorgeWBushLibrary.com, then they forgot to renew the registration. It got picked up by a cybersquatter, Illuminati Karate.

“It worked out very well,” said George Huger, lead Web developer for Illuminati Karate in Raleigh, N.C. (source)

It worked out well indeed.

The Bush team could have picked the domain up for a $1,500 filing fee with WIPO. Even though the Bush team was careless, that doesn’t mean that Illuminati Karate had a superior claim to the domain. See “Finders Keepers” is not a legitimate defense to a cybersquatting claim. Alternatively, they could have filed a claim under 15 U.S.C. § 1125(d) and pounded Illuminati Karate for up to $100,000 in statutory damages and reimbursement of their attorneys fees.

My hat goes off to Illuminati Karate. While I find their actions to be, on one level, a bit repugnant. On another, I say good for them. Ol’ Dubya scammed us all for the past 8 years and Illuminati Karate scammed him back.

HT: Enrico Schaefer


GoDaddy Gives Certified Appraisals for Cybersquatting Domain Names

September 7, 2008

The Domains Blog gives a report on how GoDaddy is not only selling domain names that clearly infringe on trademark rights, but selling certified appraisals of those domains. The Domains Blog, a domainer-industry source is deeply disturbed at this turn of events and proposes a domain parking code of conduct:

A. Parking companies must refuse to park any domain that infringes on a trademark. If parking companies need to hire a full time person to police this, then that’s the cost of doing business. If trademark domain holders (I will not call these people domainers) can’t make money on parking trademarked domains, the incentive for registering and holding them is gone.

B. Google and Yahoo have to block trademark domains from their system. Not all domains go through parking companies. Many go to Google directly through ad sense pages. Neither Google nor Yahoo can make money on trademark domains anymore. Game over.

C. Auction companies must not allow trademark domains to be sold on their platform. If a trademark domain holder cannot sell their domains on any of the auction platforms, then their incentive to register and hold such domains is greatly diminished.

D. Domain registrars have to peel off domains that violate trademarks and not allow them to be dropped and auctioned off. Registrars now regularly peel off the best expired domains for their own benefit, so they can remove the trademark domains at the same time for the benefit of the industry.

E. Registries upon releasing a new extension must allow all trademark holders to apply for their trademark domains for free (see out post of last week) and in any event not allow trademarked domains to be auctioned off. We all see what an embarrassment the industry suffered that the highest selling .me domain was a trademark infringing domain. This cannot be allowed to continue or be repeated when new extensions are released.

(Source)


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