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02|07|2013 09:02 pm EDT

Court dismisses IOD’s .WEB lawsuit against ICANN

by Frank Michlick in Categories: Legal Issues

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As tweeted by George Kirikos, the court granted ICANN’s motion to dismiss Image Online Design’s (IOD) .WEB lawsuit. ICANN posted the “Order Granting ICANN’s Motion to Dismiss Complaint” (PDF) today on their site.

IOD had applied to operate the .WEB gTLD in 2000, but ICANN did not select the TLD for the phase at the time.

12|12|2012 11:20 am EDT

.pw: A leader in trademark protection?

by Frank Michlick in Categories: Legal Issues

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The following is a guest post by Kate Moran of TM.Biz, .PW’s trademark validation agent.

As you may know, on December 3rd .pw (the ccTLD for Palau) kicked off its sunrise offering. It is a relaunch of a country-code to the general public – however, equally noteable is that it is one of the first top-level domains to deploy some of the advanced Rights Protection Mechanisms currently being debated by the ICANN community.

ICANN is currently trying to finalize the specifications of the Trademark Clearinghouse and the level of protection afforded to trademarks.  Under discussion is coverage beyond exact matches of trademarks. The opposition is pushing back furiously, claiming that these expansions were already discussed, dissected and shot down several times in the past few years.

The .pw registry is proposing to protect not only exact matches, but also any domain containing the trademark, misspellings, abbreviations and language translations of the validated trademark.  The trademark validation agent, TM.Biz is coupling these rules with automated searches of 70 trademark databases.

Trademark owners may include any variant of their trademark that has been subject to cybersquatting.  In the case of misspellings not being intuitive,TM.Biz will ask for documentation demonstrating past use by third parties.  TM.Biz’s validation agents will use open source tools to verify translations and may also  request documentation from the trademark owner.

Finally, premium generic strings are registry-reserved and are not generally available for sunrise.  If there are competing sunrise applications for the same string, the level of similarity will be examined,  i.e. if they are both exact matches or one if an exact match and the other is due to a misspelling or other variant.  If they are both due to the same level of similarity, then the names go to auction.  Otherwise, the more exact match would prevail and there is no auction.

The outcome of the recent ICANN debates are still unclear. However, the market’s reaction to the .pw Sunrise should serve as a barometer of interest for expanded trademark protection. In addition, the registry will be able to attest to whether offering expanded trademark protection is an easy process or a very complicated one.

The .PW Sunrise will be a great test and ICANN needs to pay attention. Will the trademark industry take advantage of this expanded trademark protection, as they claim they will? 

11|26|2012 02:14 pm EDT

132 Domain Names seized on Cyber Monday

by Frank Michlick in Categories: Legal Issues

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This Messages Appears on the Seized Domains

According to a Reuters release United States and European authorities seized 132 domain names. According to DNN’s knowledge this is the first time that an international cooperation in order to seize domain names happened like this:

ICE agents seized 101 domain names in the United States and 31 were taken over by officers in Britain, Romania, Belgium, France and Denmark and by Europol, the European Police Office, ICE Director John Morton said.

A list of the domains has not been published, so it is not quite clear if ccTLDs were also involved. One person in the US was arrested.

The Cyber Monday seizures raise the total number of U.S. sites taken over to 1,630 since ICE began its anti-counterfeit campaign in June 2010.

PayPal accounts identified with the sites and holding a total of more than $175,000 are being targeted for seizure, the ICE statement said.

According to Dailychanges there have been no domains there were added to the previously used nameservers (ns1.seizedservers.com) recently, however we did notice that apparently one of the seized names, golfstaring.com, has expired at Network Solutions and the nameservers were changed to “ns1/2.pendingrenewaldeletion.com”.

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08|29|2012 05:19 pm EDT

US Government Returns Seized RojaDirecta Domain Names

by Frank Michlick in Categories: Legal Issues

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As reported by Wired today the US Government has returned the seized domain names of Spanish forum RojaDirecta.com/org domains after the government dropped their claim on Wednesday – 19 months after the domains were originally seized.

The seizing of the domains happened as part of the “Operation in our Sites” together with eight other sites that were accused of being connected to broadcasting pirated video streams of professional sports.

The government, which seized the domain names for simply including links to copyrighted content, dropped the Rojadirecta claim, seemingly due to a recent ruling by Judge Richard Posner. Posner, one of the nation’s most respected judges, knocked down charges that a video bookmarking site was infringing copyright law, just because its users linked to copyrighted videos.

The operator of the site, Puerto 80, said the site that has 865,000 registered users has not committed any copyright infringement. As a discussion board about sports, politics and other topics some of the users may have linked to pirated streams. The group had been trying to negotiate with the US government, but were told that they would only receive control over their domain names again if the site would prohibit its users from linking to any US content.

It looks like the domains are currently though, the site is not back online yet. Interestingly it also looks like the “last updated” date in the registry has not been changed when the domain was seized or returned.

05|18|2012 11:01 am EDT

Federal Commissioner for Data Protection says law enforcements requests for new RAA are against German laws

by Frank Michlick in Categories: Legal Issues

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The law enforcement recommendations for storing additional information related to domain name registrations that are supposed to make their way into ICANN’s new Registrar Accreditation Agreement (RAA) might be against German data privacy laws, as Heise.de (German tech publication) reports. According to the response to Heise’s inquiry,  The Federal Commissioner for Data Protection and Freedom of Information confirmed that the storage of domain name registration related data for two years would be illegal in Germany. The requests include to store address information, changes to any information, payment information, a full account history and a number of other items for a period of two years after the end of the contract.

European data protection advocates have already been fighting a long fight against the publication of whois data, leading to an introduction of a “Whois Procedure for Conflicts with National Laws” at ICANN in 2007.

04|16|2012 11:15 am EDT

Google settles Dispute over gmail.de after 8 years

by Frank Michlick in Categories: Legal Issues

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This Domain Registered by MarkMonitor: Gmail.de

8 years after the introduction of  Google’s Gmail email offering, it appears it has settled a dispute over the use of the brand in Germany as shown by a transfer filing with the German patent office. When Google introduced the service worldwide in 2004, they encountered problems with the name in Germany, England and Switzerland, which forced Google to operate under the name GoogleMail instead. While the case in Switzerland was settled in 2009 and in the UK in 2010, the  negotiations in Germany continued until the trademark was transferred last Wednesday. The domain gmail.de changed ownership on the same day and is now also owned by Google with the domain now displaying a Mark Monitor holding page.

The German brand for “G-mail… und die Post geht richtig ab” (gmail – and off the mail goes, based on a German idiom), which was registered in 2000 was owned by entrepreneur Daniel Giersch who enforced his rights in 2005. His email service is now available under the domain and name “@quabb.com”. While the price for the settlement is not known, Giersch turned down an offer of 250.000 Euro from Google for the mark and domain in 2006.

Google also had trouble obtaining the domain YouTube.de, but was able to settle with the owner of the domain in 2007.

[via Computerworld | Golem.de (German) | SZ (German), thanks to Christoph Kilz]

04|09|2012 05:46 pm EDT

Internet.bs Corp Responds to KnujOn Accusations

by Frank Michlick in Categories: Legal Issues

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Internet.bs Corp creates special pharmacy policy for domain registrations

Recently offshore domain registrar Internet.BS was called out by KnujOn as one of the registrars that “see no evil” when it comes to supporting online pharmacies and according to KnujOn’s report (PDF) does not enforce the ICANN rules for invalid whois.  Following the release of the report, Internet.BS suspended 176 pharma related domains.

Today, the registrar continues to address the issue by publishing a statement that announces the implementation of a new domain name registration policy for online pharmacies. The policy became part of the company’s Terms and Conditions.

According to Internet.BS’ press release:

The foundation of the policy is that a customer may register, maintain or transfer-in a domain name to be used for an online pharmacy only if the online pharmacy is not listed under the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy’s (NABP) “Not Recommended Sites” list. Exceptions will be granted to domain names that are certified by one of the four recognized online pharmacy accreditation services: the Canadian International Pharmacy Association (CIPA), PharmacyChecker.com, the Pharmacy Accreditation Services (PAS), or the NABP’s Verified Internet Pharmacy Practices Site (VIPPS).

Internet.BS also goes on to point out the responsibilities of domain name registrars with regards to suspensions and deletions of domain names, as

02|22|2012 11:12 am EDT

UDRP: Abusive Supplemental Filings in the case of AutoOwnersInsurance.com

by Paul Keating in Categories: Legal Issues

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The following is a guest post by Paul Raynor Keating (paul@law.es). He is a domain industry attorney with offices in Barcelona and London.

The recent decision in autoownersinsurance.com is a perfect example of things going from worse to horrible. While the decision itself contains many substantive flaws, my overwhelming issue is with the lack of due-process rights evidenced by this UDRP.

The complaint was limited to a 3-paragraph argument which asserted a USPTO registration for “Auto-Owners”. The complaint asserted lack of legitimate interest because the domain was used in PPC and included links to insurance (surprise). The complaint did not allege bad faith registration and allegations of bad faith use were limited to the same PPC argument.

Read more after the jump.

(more…)

02|20|2012 01:10 pm EDT

Why UDRP Panel Certification is Important: HardwareResources.org

by Paul Keating in Categories: Legal Issues

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The following is a guest post by Paul Raynor Keating, Esq. Paul is an attorney specializing in the domain space. He has offices in Barcelona and London.

Although the UDRP has functioned for over a decade, the evidence continues to mount in favor of a certification process so all can be assured that panelists have the proper legal knowledge and address claims seriously. Examples abound of panel errors but I have seen few that competes with the likes of Hardware Resources, Inc. v. Yaseen Rehman, Claim Number: FA1201001423229 (HardwareResources.org), a recent decision by NAF-favored panelist Atkinson (see the related study by Zak Muscovitch).

In Hardware Resources, the panelist was so absorbed with the Complainant’s assertions that he failed to examine even the most basic aspects of the claim. Granted the case was a default. But that provides little excuse given the obviousness of the problems. Given Mr. Atkinson’s litigation experience (he authored an article entitled “How to Respond to Trial Objections in 1995), I am somewhat perplexed.

Complainant asserted 4 registered trademarks for “HR Hardware Resources”. A 10-second trip to the USPTO site satisfied my surprise that the PTO would allow registration of such a descriptive trademark. Complainant’s “trademarks” consisted of 2 text marks and 2 design marks. Each of the marks contained the following disclaimer:

NO CLAIM IS MADE TO THE EXCLUSIVE RIGHT TO USE “HARDWARE RESOURCES” APART FROM THE MARK AS SHOWN.”

The significance of the disclaimer is of course that the Complainant had expressly disclaimed the words “Hardware Resources” if they did not appear with “HR”. Perhaps Mr. Atkinson (or more likely the intern at NAF who may have written the decision?) missed that bit.

Notwithstanding the clear disclaimers, the Mr. Atkinson boldly stated:

The differences between the mark and the disputed domain name include the deletion of the initial letters “H” and “R” of Complainant’s mark, the removal of the space between the terms, and the addition of the generic top-level domain (“gTLD”) “.org.” The Panel holds that removing letters from a mark does not differentiate a disputed domain name from the mark.”

Had Mr. Atkinson (or his associate) taken 20 seconds of time he could easily have discovered that the elimination the “HR” was in fact material for the simple reason that Complainant held no trademark rights in their absence. Actually, come to think if it, the disclaimer would have been printed in the trademark registration certificate that Complainant surely produced.

From this highpoint, the analysis gets only worse. Legitimate interest is found lacking because “using a confusingly similar disputed domain name to host pay-per-click links and pop-up advertisements, whether competing or not, does not constitute a bona fide offering of goods or services or a legitimate noncommercial or fair use according to Policy ¶¶ 4(c)(i) and 4(c)(iii).” Of course no mention is made of the descriptive nature of the asserted trademark or of the domain.

The authority for the panelist’s position? Two NAF decisions, Hewlett-Packard Co. v. Collazo, FA 144628 (Nat. Arb. Forum Mar. 5, 2003) and ALPITOUR S.p.A. v. Albloushi, FA 888651 (Nat. Arb. Forum Feb. 26, 2007). The panelist was obviously not familiar with either of the decisions. Hewlett-Packard addressed the domain HPCanada.com. HP is obviously a famous, non-descriptive mark and there could be no legitimate interest in using the domain to display links for computer equipment. Alpitour dealt with the domain BravoClub.com. The asserted mark was used for a hotel chain and obviously not descriptive; respondent used the domain for PPC for (surprise….) hotels. Exactly how HardwareResources.org presents a factual or legal scenario that is even close to Hewlet-Packard or Aplitour is a mystery.

Going from bad to worse, Mr. Atkinson next finds bad faith because Respondent offered to sell the domain to the Complainant for a whopping $40.00. Surely this is a joke. The opinion is apparently based on an empty allegation by complainant. God forbid there be any reference to evidence. I am always amazed how far panelists will go to “justify” an expansion beyond the actual text of the UDRP when doing so in favor of complainants. I rarely see this when the issue might favor the respondent. This $40-issue is yet another example. While it is possible that $40.00 was more than the out-of-pocket costs, the rule in this regard is tied to the concept of targeting and registering domain names for the purpose of holding them ransom to a known trademark holder. This case fails the mark by any stretch and by even mentioning the issue Mr. Atkinson opens both himself and the UDRP process to ridicule.

Yet again showing his preference for complainants, Mr. Atkinson finds bad faith registration based upon PPC use with websites that “have featured pay-per-click links, some relating to Complainant’s competitors and some being simply generic” and some that “displayed information about Complainant“. Mr. Atkinson thus finds that the respondent must have registered the domain “to attract consumers and create confusion for its own profit“. This is lumped together with the $40-issue to support a finding of bad faith.

It is telling that the only reference to “generic” was in the Complainant’s allegations. The panelist certainly does not mention the word or deal at all with the descriptive nature of the phrase at issue. The use of a descriptive domain for descriptive purposes has repeatedly been found both legitimate and in good faith. It has long been held that the foundational issue is whether the respondent “targeted” the complainant. Here, the Complainant had no trademark in “Hardware Resources”. The domain was used for – guess what – PPC links related to items long considered to be hardware-related. That Complainant may have appeared in any of the PPC links is the fault of the Complainant who voluntarily selected a less-than-stellar trademark.

The most important lesson to be learned here, however, is not that Mr. Atkinson should abstain from being involved in the UDRP process. The important lesson is that decisions such as these destroy the carefully structured balance of the UDRP process as a whole. Respondents are repeatedly told that they can legitimately register and use domain names for descriptive purposes. It instills little confidence in the “system” when panelists such as Mr. Atkinson issue ill-thought out opinions such as this one.

While panelists aren’t earning the salaries of bankers in New York, this case shows that 20 seconds of thought would have produced the correct result. Trademark disclaimers are there for a reason; without the disclaimer the USPTO would not have issued the registration. It defies logic to permit a registration with a disclaimer and then support a trademark in only what has been disclaimed. Complainants must be held responsible for selecting descriptive trademarks. After all, they do it for a reason – a descriptive mark gives them a leg-up on the competition. If a consumer is looking for “hardware”, coming across a sign for “hardware resources” leads to the assumption that one will indeed find hardware items there. However, having selected such descriptive marks they should not be permitted to use them as a sword to prevent others from doing so.

And, $40 for a domain name? I am not sure who was being sillier; the panelist in using this as bad faith or the respondent who thought it was a good idea to make the offer.


 

02|17|2012 02:52 am EDT

Secret Service Takes Down Hosted Form Service JotForm.com For a Day

by Frank Michlick in Categories: Legal Issues

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As reported by Wired, it appears that domain seizures are no longer the domain of the ICE alone. It appears that registrar Go Daddy took down the hosted webform service JoftForm.com by changing the domain name’s nameservers. Even though an update to a blog post about the suspension on the site’s blog mentioned that the site is back online, DNN has not been able to access it under it’s old domain name at the time of this post.

  • The Domain was suspended on February 15th, 2012
  • JotForm asked their users to switch their form integrations from JotForm.com to Jotform.net
  • The company operating JetForm (Interlogy Internet Technologies) switched their other domains from Go Daddy to Namecheap and Hover.
  • The nameservers were switched back at Feb 16th 5pm EST
  • 2 million user generated forms by hundreds of thousand of users were affected by the take down
  • Interlogy Internet Technologies has yet to receive an explanation for the shutdown of the site

Last year the ICE seized mooo.com, which runs a free DNS service, and shut down 84,000 subdomains for two days while they were targeting a single site within the network.

[via Wired]