Legal News

American Airlines seeks damages against Google

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American Airlines seeks damages against Google
American Airlines filed a lawsuit against Google for selling Adwords related to its trademarks (including “American Airlines”. Personally, I think the claim is ludicrous. In my opinion, the term “American Airlines” is about as generic as they come. Why can’t US Airways, another “American airline,” purchase the keyword “American airlines?” Why shouldn’t anyone who sells anything associated with American airlines buy this particular keyword? Perhaps searchers are looking for the airline, but maybe they are just looking for information about an American airline.

I hope Google fights this and wins, because this claim seems over the top to me.

Working With CADNA

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I think there are reasons why people might want to consider supporting CADNA in their public goal of defeating cybersquatters and domain tasting/kiting. I believe most of the big organizations that support CADNA are simply trying to protect their brands/trademarks rather than go after generic domain names. Although Dell probably would kill for Computers.com or CustomComputers.com, they are more interested in making sure a typo name like DelComputer.com isn’t owned by someone other than them.

Dell (and similar companies) believe when a web surfer types that in to their browser, they are actually trying to get to Dell, so why should they have to pay to correct the error, and why should a cybersquatter be able to direct traffic to other computer companies when the person is looking for Dell and not someone else?

On their press release, CADNA stated, Cybersquatting is defined “as the bad-faith registration of a domain name that includes or is confusingly similar to someone else’s trademark.” This leads me to believe they want to protect trademark holders from obvious infringing domain names. As it stands at the present time, the domain tasting loophole basically allows people to register domain names for 5 days or less, and then they can drop these names. They are able to test the traffic, and they can make business decisions on which names to keep based on traffic, revenue, and of course the risk in owning it.

As of yet, trademark holders have been unable to act fast enough to respond to domain tasters, and that is where the problem is. I think there are significant hurdles that need to be overcome, as there is much grey area. For example, would Dell believe that a name like Del.com infringed on their trademark simply because the spelling was similar? I know that Dell owns Del.com, but what if they didn’t and the name were parked? There are many examples like this, and those would have to be overcome.

However, in the short run, I think it would be in our best interest to work alongside with CADNA, to ensure domain owner rights are kept in mind, while trying to stop people who blatantly trample on the rights of trademark holders using the domain tasting loophole.

Fave.com – An Example of Cybersquatting??

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According to an article in Business Week, Fave.com is apparently “held by a cybersquatter.” On the second page of staff writer Kerry Miller’s article, “Does Success Hinge on a Domain Name“, the author states:

“And while the naming process is typically most fraught for Web-based businesses that consider their Web addresses central to their branding, domain-name availability is becoming a key consideration for other new businesses, too. Jon and Jeff Seymour found that Persona, their first-choice name for their localized Web browser, was already trademarked. Their second choice, Fave, wasn’t

NY Law To Prohibit Registering Domain of Living Person

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Web address bill by Sen. Little will become law

In a couple of months, it will be illegal to register a domain name that is the same or similar to a living person:

“Approved by Gov. Eliot Spitzer Aug, 1, the law will prohibit a person or entity from registering a domain name that consists of the name of another living person, or a name substantially and confusingly similar thereto, without that person

Possible Liability for “Holding” Domains

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Are domain registrants unknowingly taking risks with their domain names if they aren’t parked or developed? Registrars like Godaddy and Network Solutions frequently put up landing pages with Pay Per Click (ppc) links, unbeknownst to the domain owner, when the domain owner doesn’t change the DNS after purchase. These links are frequently related to the subject of the domain name which could potentially pose a problem for domain registrants – especially if the domain may have trademark issues.

Take the domain name SuperYachts.com for example. The name is registered with Network Solutions, and the registrar is serving up ppc links for “Charter A Luxury Yacht,” “Private Yacht Charters,” and “Yacht Brokerage” among others. To my knowledge, the owner of this domain name is not receiving any compensation for any revenue generated by clicks. Since this domain name is fairly generic, there probably isn’t much risk with Network Solutions serving related advertisements, although I don’t believe it is right that they may not be sharing the revenue with the domain owner. I liken this to my last trip to South Florida where a person was charging people for parking spaces in a bank’s parking lot hours after the bank closed. I am sure the money he made from this endeavor was not shared with the bank!

In the case of a domain name like VoteBarak.com, the domain registrant could be opening himself up to a legal issue because Godaddy is serving ppc advertising. Although most of the ppc links are Barak Obama-friendly, one could be considered not so friendly – “Ann Coulter’s Column Free.” While some people may say it is perfectly legitimate to own a name like this, when a registrar serves advertisements, thus generating revenue, they may be putting the registrant in a precarious position. Since the law allows a registrant to own a name like this to voice his First Amendment right (fan site, anti-person site…etc), when revenue is being generated based on the famous person’s notoriety, a WIPO panel may see this as bad faith.

A worse situation is in the case of the domain name GoogleScores.com. This obvious TM is registered at Godaddy, with the registrar serving up advertising for various credit score links, piano score links, and even a link to “Free Google Software,” with a link to a Google-owned entiy. Whether the owner knows that this is happening or not, he is certainly opening himself up to potential liability in the form of a ACPA lawsuit or WIPO.

Registrars probably make millions of dollars annually from all the random domain names that have never been parked or developed by the owners but have ppc links served by the registrar. I would guess that many of these names are TM names that people new to the domain name business registered without knowing the laws about cybersquatting and are holding them rather than developing them. This problem may be hidden to them, could pose potential liability issues for them, and it would appear that registrars like Godaddy and Network Solutions are able to reap the reward without any of the risk.

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