Legal News

DNN: Network Solutions Sued

According to today’s post on DomainNameNews, a class action lawsuit was filed against Network Solutions and ICANN by the law firm of Kabateck Brown Kellner. The firm issued a press release announcing the action earlier today.
This is the second article written by Frank and Adam today about Network Solutions, the first being an article about the company monetizing a racially sensitive domain name owned by the NAACP, presumably to prevent links like this from being displayed.

Domain Name Seized by US Government?

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I read a post on DNForum this morning which mentioned that the US Government has seized the domain name WAB.com. According to a message on the WAB.com homepage, the domain name and website were surrendered to the government because of the owner’s violation of copyright laws. The former owner plead guilty “to conspiring with others to violate federal copyright laws.” As of the time of this post, the Whois information still shows the previous owner’s registration details.
It is interesting to note that I didn’t find any legal notices via Google for the guilty plea of the person mentioned on the website. Additionally, the Whois data shows the website is owned by someone in France.

CircleID: ICANN Fee Will End Domain Tasting

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According to a post on CircleID this afternoon, the ICANN Board of Directors held a vote to impose the non-refundable $.20 fee on ALL domain names registered from the moment of registration. The unanimous vote which took place on January 23 was noted in sections 5 and 6 of the ICANN meeting minutes, which were recently distributed. According to the notes,

the Board resolves (2008.01.04) to encourage ICANN’s budgetary process to include fees for all domains added, including domains added during the AGP, and encourages community discussion involved in developing the ICANN budget, subject to both Board approval and registrar approval of this fee.” – Preliminary Report for the Special Meeting of the ICANN Board of Directors

By charging a fee on all registrations, people will be much less likely to buy large amounts of domain names with the intention of dropping the unprofitable names. This should close the loophole that was created to protect people who registered a domain name in error. In exploiting this loophole, some people were buying thousands of domain names (and more), keeping them for under the 5 day grace period to test the traffic, and dropping the names that didn’t receive traffic. This led some companies to register and monetize trademark domain names and quickly drop them to avoid being detected.
Dell recently filed a lawsuit against companies they believe engaged in this act, and the case is still pending.

Microsoft Sues Domain Registrar

According to articles in the Washington Post and PC World today, Microsoft has filed a lawsuit against domain registrar Red Register for registering 125 names with Microsoft trademarks. Although the domain names are currently registered to another company in Tortola, Microsoft believes the current information is false (according the article).

This marks the second registrar in recent history to have a lawsuit filed against it for cybersquatting. A couple of months ago, Yahoo and Dell both filed lawsuits against domain registrar Belgium Domains for registering domain names infringing on their brands. While both of these instances accuse the registrar of owning the infringing domain names, it is scary to think that this could potentially happen to a more mainstream registrar who controls millions of domain names and happens to have some trademark names among them. An article on DomainNameNews.com prints an email showing that many domain names at Belgium Domains are currently locked by the registry.

Trademark holders have become more aggressive in defending their marks in the past several months, not simply going after the domain owners as they did in the past. Back in June, Vulcan Golf sued Google for helping domain owners monetize domain names that they believe infringed upon their trademark. Domain owners need to use caution and common sense when registering domain names.

Discussing “Nonuse” of a Domain Name

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I was reading the UDRP decision that was filed for the domain name Michelman.com by Michelman, Inc.   The owner of the domain name registered it in 1997, and in the response, his attorney stated the domain name was registered “for a website containing commentary concerning the issue of abortion rights.” The complainant argued that the “Respondent has never made any use of the disputed domain name, legitimate or otherwise.”

The WIPO panel eventually ruled in favor of the complainant, and the panel stated, “Ten years’ nonuse without a demonstrable right or legitimate interest clearly amounts to use in bad faith consistent with the reasoning of Telstra.”

With that said, I have a question about the reference to “nonuse.” What exactly does the term “nonuse” constitute? Does nonuse always mean that a domain name isn’t or wasn’t developed?   I think this term is a bit of a grey area that I don’t fully understand.

I know of several domain names that may technically look like they aren’t being used, but behind the scenes, the domain name is the backbone for comprehensive email address systems.   If a domain owner wishes to use his domain name simply for the vanity email addresses he would have access to, does this decision mean that he must build out an expensive website just to eliminate the appearance of nonuse?

I believe the definition of “nonuse” should be more clearly defined, because at the present time, I am not sure I understand what it means. To me, a domain name may be “used” even if it doesn’t appear to be so.

Godaddy’s WIPO Filing – A Commendable Action

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When I write about a WIPO decision, more often than not, I prefer to discuss generic domain names, and I usually take the side of the registrant/respondent. In the case of the recent WIPO decision for the domain name GodaddysGirls.com, I would like to commend the complainant, Godaddy.

In my opinion, the domain name GodaddysGirls.com is infringing upon Godaddy’s trademark, “Godaddy.” I have no legal background, so this is just my opinion. Also, knowing about Godaddy CEO Bob Parsons, I wouldn’t have been shocked if he created a special website in honor of Godaddy’s Girls. (See video clip below for more on that.)

Aside from the fact that the registrant was using the term “Godaddy” in the domain name, according to the WIPO filing, the registrant would “redirect Internet users to sponsored links to a number of pornographic websites.” Clearly this isn’t something Godaddy would condone, so of course, they wanted to stop it.

In the decision released today, I want to highlight a few noteworthy things Godaddy did prior to the filing. First, Godaddy didn’t immediately file a WIPO dispute or a lawsuit under the Lanham Act once they became aware of the usage of this domain name. Godaddy “contacted Respondent with a cease and desist and transfer demand,” which the respondent rejected. I think this was a reasonable request, and it could have saved all parties time and money if it was accepted.

The rejection could have pissed Godaddy off enough to immediately file a dispute, but instead, they “indicated that it was willing to purchase the domain name from Respondent at a “reasonable price.” I don’t know of many companies who would be willing to pay for a domain name it believes is being used in bad faith after having a cease and desist letter flatly rejected, so I was impressed with this overture.

It was only after these two attempts to amicably resolve this were rejected that Godaddy proceeded with filing a WIPO dispute. In the decision released today, the domain name was ordered to be transferred to Godaddy.

Detractors may say that Godaddy took those actions to save money. While that may have been the case, I believe they first took reasonable steps to get this domain name back, and only used the WIPO dispute process as a last resort.

I am just an outsider looking in on this, but in this day and age of companies filing legal actions first and asking questions after, I believe Godaddy did the honorable thing and should be commended.

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