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02|02|2010 01:22 pm EDT

NBA Star Chris Bosh Now Owns 800 “Cybersquatted” Domain Names

by Zak Muscovitch in Categories: Legal Issues

Guest contributor Zak Muscovitch is a domain name lawyer, based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. He has been practicing domain name law for over ten years. Go to http://www.DNattorney.com and http://www.muscovitch.com. This time he follows up on a case we reported on earlier, where Chris Bosh won his own domain name, ChrisBosh.com along with 800 additional similar domains for other stars.

Is Chris Bosh a “Cyber-hero” or “Cybersquatter”?

Many domainers are now familiar with the remarkable news item reporting that Toronto Raptors NBA star Chris Bosh won a judgment for $120,000 against a domainer, Luis Zavala (Hoopology.com), for registering ChrisBosh.com. The judgment apparently came down in April, but then Bosh’s lawyers reportedly convinced the judge to order that the domainer’s 800 other mainly sports and celebrity domain names domains be handed over to Chris Bosh as well, since the defendant wasn’t likely to pay the $120,000 judgement that Chris Bosh had obtained in an action under the Anti-Cybersquatting Consumer Protection Act, for cybersquatting.

Bosh’s lawyer reportedly stated, that “the Raptors’ star has no intention of holding onto any of them except his own. He’s not trying to make any money here. He just wants to give these players their names back“.

Accordingly, Chris Bosh sues a guy for cybersquatting and then takes 800 cybersquatted domain names as ‘damages’. Bosh’s lawyers are apparently going to decide for themselves, who deserves the domain names: “We are notifying the world that anyone whose name is on this list that has a legitimate right to the domain name, Chris will transfer it to them for free,” said Brian Heidelberger, one of three lawyers who represented Bosh.” Accordingly, it appears that the Judge may have enabled a sports star and his lawyers to determine ‘who has the rights to particular domain names’. Here is the actual text of the lawyers’ terms for handing over the domain names – a kind of topsy-turvy “para-UDRP” process which is apparently entirely within the discretion of a basketball star and his lawyers:

Chris Bosh and Max Deal offer the return of the domain name free of charge as a courtesy to the celebrity named herein, provided that such person promptly requests the return of such domain name in writing from Max Deal. Domain names will not be returned without a direct written request from an authorized person to Hadi@MaxDealTechnologies.com. Prior to transferring any domain name on this list, Chris Bosh and Max Deal reserve the right to require documentation in their reasonable discretion to support the requester’s rights in the domain name. Domain names on this list may or may not be renewed at Chris Bosh and Max Deal’s sole discretion. Chris Bosh and Max Deal reserve the right to at any time in their sole discretion to delete or cancel domain names on this list. Chris Bosh and Max Deal will not charge any fees for the transfer of domain names on this list. All third party costs relating to transfer of any domain name on this list to an authorized rights holder, including but not limited to transfer fees charged by the requester’s registrar, are the sole responsibility of the party requesting transfer. Chris Bosh and Max Deal make no representations express or implied regarding any domain name on this list. By requesting or accepting the transfer of a domain name, you hereby release Chris Bosh and Max Deal from any and all liabilities in connection therewith.

But who is Max Deal? Max Deal is short for “Max Deal Technologies”, a company reportedly founded by Chris Bosh and partner, Hadi Teheran. According to Bosh’s lawyers’ press release, “Max Deal is a social media company that allows brands to increase their reach“. Certainly using the ‘recovered’ domain names as aforesaid demonstrates an impressive reach, even for an NBA star. This is what Chris Bosh has to say according to the press release:

“I will offer the return of the domain names free of charge, but I’d also love the opportunity to show their owners how Max Deal can help.”

Accordingly, it appears that when someone calls up to ‘get their domain name back’ from Chris Bosh, who is the new owner of the formerly cybersquatted domain names, Bosh will take the opportunity to try to sell them on ‘how they can use the domain names in connection with his social media business’. Furthermore, according to the terms referred to above, Chris Bosh can delete or cancel any domain name in his sole discretion. Accordingly, one had better be careful or the domain name could get dropped and picked up by another cybersquatter.

The question then arises, ‘what happens if Chris Bosh decides to not give back a name because the claimant doesn’t meet his criteria?’ Maybe Bosh takes the position that one of the highschool basketball players or Venezuelan racecar drivers on his list doesn’t have common law trademark rights? Could Bosh be the Respondent in an ICANN UDRP proceeding or ACPA action? The Complainant could argue that Bosh registered the domain names in bad faith and is using them in bad faith because he won’t give them back and registered them with the intention of using them in bad faith as part of his monetization scheme in Max Deal…

Can you imagine if a domainer registered 800 celebrity domain names and his defence was that he would give them back to anyone who convinced him that they were the rightful owner and listened to his pitch that they could do great business together by letting the domainer monetize their name? What would happen to the domainer in a case like that?….

Apparently, this situation has raised the ire of at least one domain name owner. If you visit MaxDeal.com (registered to “Donain [sic] Name for Sale of Staten Island, NY”, and apparently not associated with the MaxDealTechnologies.com web site registered to Bosh’s partner, Hadi Teheran, which is currently down) the site states that it’s slogan is, MaxDeal.com, Creating an Unfair Advantage for Sports Agents”. Will this be the next target on Bosh’s domain name acquisition spree? Or will it be MaxDeals.com (the plural) currently operated as a jewellery store founded by a Max Beloff in 1933?

According to Bosh’s lawyer, Chris Bosh is a “cyber-hero”. Nevertheless, having become the owner of some 800 domain names ‘belonging’ to someone else, one must wonder whether he has been made into an unwitting cybersquatter.

For more information on domain name law please contact Zak Muscovitch at zak@muscovitch.com and visit http://www.dnattorney.com/

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12 Comments

Dan

February 2, 2010 @ 1:32 pm EDT

it sounds like a legal conundrum..

uberVU - social comments

February 2, 2010 @ 2:01 pm EDT

Social comments and analytics for this post…

This post was mentioned on Twitter by domainnamenews: #domains: NBA Star Chris Bosh Now Owns 800 “Cybersquatted” Domain Names http://bit.ly/bbQXl5

Adam

February 2, 2010 @ 2:39 pm EDT

Thanks for the contribution again Zak.

Yakov

February 3, 2010 @ 3:19 am EDT

This happens all the time. Verizon owns thousands of domains (not in their name of course) that they got from damages. They also use parking pages and collect revenues of other companies TMs. It is a shady legal tactic to generate revenue, and since this business is completely unregulated it is a lawyers wet dream. Screwing over domainers, using their big company budgets as a shell. It is essentially theft in the court of law. We have no rights in this business.

David Wieland

February 3, 2010 @ 9:36 am EDT

Zak, thanks for another informative article. It was very nice meeting you last week and I’ll reach out to you when I get a few free minutes.

David

Mike Law

February 5, 2010 @ 11:54 am EDT

@Zak – Ridiculous! Calling Bosh a cybersquatter is beyond silly. He was awarded the domains by request instead of making Zavala pay $120k cash. Bosh’s only intention is to get cybersquatted athlete and celebrity domains out of that guys hands so that in the future less of his ‘colleagues’ have to fight for what the court could see as something that is theirs anyway. So what if Bosh’s attorney uses press from this case to try and promote his business to other athlete/celebrities and help them secure their domain?? This is America, capitalism.. btw, why do you care Zak? What’s you’re agenda?

Zavala IS the definition of a cybersquatter…exactly what makes our industry look bad. He registered hundreds of names of NBA players, NBA prospects and many other famous peoples first+last names. He monetized them by putting ads on these domains relevant to basketball and sports. Chris Bosh is an NBA All Star, who I believe acted in good faith when he acquired all of those domains.

Zak

February 5, 2010 @ 12:04 pm EDT

@Mike,

Thanks for your comments. Its great to see a vigorous discussion. Of course those having carefully read and understood my article will have realized that I have not called Bosh a cybersquatter as Mike has incorrectly stated. The purpose of the article was obviously, to reveal a highly unusual situation that put cybersquatted names in the hands of yet another person who has no (and this is of course admitted by Bosh) legal rights to them. Strange indeed.

Mike

February 5, 2010 @ 12:30 pm EDT

@Zak

Article title:
“Chris Bosh Now Owns 800 ‘Cybersquatted’ Domain Names”

Quotes from your article:
“Is Chris Bosh a “Cyber-hero” or “Cybersquatter”?”
“Nevertheless, having become the owner of some 800 domain names ‘belonging’
to someone else, one must wonder whether he has been made into an unwitting cybersquatter.”

Ok you didn’t come out and say “Chris Bosh is a cybersquatter” but your writing style in this post infers that he ‘might be’ actually is by definition a cybersquatter now because he owns those domains. Get real. A cybersquatter is someone that registers/acquires domain names in bad faith, usually using those domains to attempt to make money off anothers trademark, brand/personal name.

Also, it really bothers me how you mix up the word ‘domainer’ with the term ‘cybersquatter’ in your article in the following paragraph you wrote:

“Can you imagine if a domainer registered 800 celebrity domain names and his defence was that he would give them back to anyone who convinced him that they were the rightful owner and listened to his pitch that they could do great business together by letting the domainer monetize their name? What would happen to the domainer in a case like that?…”

Legitimate DOMAINERS do not register lists of 800 celeb/athlete domain names, cybersquatters do. It’s pretty much recognized amongst the ‘domaining industry’ that cybersquatting is bad at this point in 2010.

I just can’t appreciate your article… /rant

Josh

February 5, 2010 @ 11:03 pm EDT

@Mike, its clear you know jack shit about what real domainers built their fortune on and continue to in private. I have no issue with you calling yourself a legitimate domainer but you clearly are not a real one. Zak cleared up your misconception in his last post yet you seem to have missed it. In the mean time try regging a few typos and finally make yourself a buck and a real domainer along with it.

Mike

February 6, 2010 @ 1:47 pm EDT

@Josh – Yeah, I’m clueless :)

I guess I’d rather carve out a legitimate niche in any industry I work. It’s ok, we need lemmings too, following the herd to the ‘real money’. You have fun with your typos and tm’s.

@Zach – I understand you are a domain attorney and have far more experience dealing with domains on a legal level. Is it your opinion that domainers and cybersquatters are synonymous? Also, I can accept that you didn’t call Bosh a cybersquatter. All I said was that the tone of the article infers that Bosh is either innocent or guilty of cybersquatting, even though he has done nothing that would warrant him being considered a cybersquatter.

One more quote of yours from your writing kind of blew me away:

“Will this be the next target on Bosh’s domain name acquisition spree…”

Yes, that’s what Bosh does in his free time, he sits around with his attorney looking for domain names that they can acquire through litigation. LOL, that’s absurd. The guy pursues his first+last .com, wins a case and all the sudden he’s on a domain acquisition spree? When Bosh starts pursuing more domains through litigation and tries to sell some of these 800 names on eBay or Sedo for a profit, I’ll eat my words.

Josh

February 6, 2010 @ 4:57 pm EDT

@Mike ” I guess I’d rather carve out a legitimate niche in any industry I work. ”
I think alot of tm and typo guys have managed the same, quite well too.

As for the subject of Chris Bosh, he is now a squatter himself imo, owning a tm name and excusing it with a statement you would hand them out to the rightful owner if approached, appearing as a saviour is one many tm and typo traders use when confronted. As you know there is no valid excuse thus Chris Bosh is a squatter just the same. Does he plan on parking these names, renewing them and so forth, who knows but if we were discussing something else like drugs, guns, stolen property etc he wouldnt be holding anything for anyone, its rather ironic how the world views domains, domains clearly viewed by the courts as infringing.

Frank Michlick

February 9, 2010 @ 1:11 am EDT

@Zak: Thanks for the post.

@Josh: Thanks for the comments.

@Mike: Thanks for your comments. Zak has prevented defended many domainers/domain owners against reverse hi-jacking attempts (Canadian.biz, ForSale.ca etc.), so I doubt he views domainers as cybersquatters.

As for the domains Chris Bosh received as part of a judgment, I think the main concern here is that that court puts him in a position where he could become a cybersquatter himself. And apparently giving back those domains to the proper owners isn’t as easy as it may seem in the first place.

From the Spots Agent Blog:

In roughly four months since the judge’s order to hand over the 754 domain names to Bosh, only about 26 domains were transferred from Bosh to a new owner. Additionally, 162 domain names expired and are unregistered (for the time being). The rest, apparently are just being held by Bosh, his online presence company, and his attorneys.

The move of the court reminds me of German courts, that sometimes order the deletion of trademark-infringing domains along with an order to the infringer not to register the domain or similar domains again.

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