TechCrunch is one of my favorite websites to read, and I have to say, I spend quite a bit of time on the site. I especially enjoy reading articles by Michael Arrington, Robin Wauters, and Erick Schonfeld, two TechCrunch staff journalists. Unfortunately, I disagree with the portrayal of Mike Mann’s Domain Asset Holdings in yesterday’s article about Facebook’s UDRP filing for 21 domain names.
First, let’s start with the case. Facebook filed a UDRP for 21 domain names owned by Domain Asset Holdings that included the term “Facebook” in them. Some of these names include FacebookBabes.com, FacebookCheats.com…etc. Some might think it’s a cut and dry case, but with trademark law, there’s very little that is cut and dry.
When I was in college, there was a freshman facebook distributed to all RAs, administrators, and freshmen. I am sure there are plenty of other colleges that did and still do the same. Facebook the company did not coin the term “facebook” despite making it into a well-known brand. That being said, according to Domain Asset Holdings founder, Mike Mann, “those names were registered by accident and we are trying to give them back to them.”
My biggest issue with the article is Robin’s characterization of Mann’s company. The article stated that these 21 “domain names are all currently owned by a company called Domain Asset Holdings, a known domain squatter based in Potomac, Maryland.” The article linked to a legal action for the domain name CustomResins.com, which appears to have settled.
There are two organizations that handle UDRP cases: World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and National Arbitration Forum (NAF). According to the WIPO database, there were no UDRP decisions with Domain Asset Holdings listed as the respondent. The NAF database lists two decisions with Domain Asset Holdings as the respondent. Both of these cases ended with Domain Asset Holdings winning.
In looking at Domain Asset Holdings’ nameservers, the company appears to own over one hundred thousand domain names. Having just two UDRP decisions (not including the recent Facebook filing) is quite remarkable for a company with this many domain names. This surely isn’t the sign of a company that’s a “known domain squatter.”
Furthermore, Mike Mann is the entrepreneur who previously sold BuyDomains to NameMedia. I don’t know the purchase price, but I’ve heard it was many millions of dollars. I’ve seen BuyDomains lose very few UDRP cases. Both of Mann’s companies generally invest in descriptive domain names, not trademarks.
For whatever reason, Domain Asset Holdings “accidentally” registered a group of names with trademarks in them and is trying to give them back to the company (according to Mike Mann). In my opinion, the description of Mann’s company as a known domain squatter is quite inaccurate, and I would hope Robin considers changing it.
Mike Mann posted a comment on Robin’s article today stating “we have 150,000 names many of which a machine registered.”