Landmark Domain Name Dispute Cases

//Landmark Domain Name Dispute Cases

Domain name dispute legal battles are capturing more and more headlines internationally as companies start to navigate the world of Internet domain names and trademarks.  In order to ensure best practices for our clients, Hutcherson Law closely follows the landmark domain name dispute decisions.

In 2001, Ikea won a high-profile domain name dispute in China against Beijing CINet regarding the domain name “ikea.com.cn.”  This case was the first cybersquatting case in a Chinese court to favor a foreign trademark owner.  The Chinese court ruled for Ikea because the company proved that CINet had registered multiple domain names featuring well-known brands seemingly for financial gain and because of the fact that the site belonged to CINet, potentially misleading consumers about the relationship between Ikea and CINet.  Perhaps most importantly, this case helped lead to changes in China’s administration of domain name principles, closer aligning China’s practices to those of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).

Also in 2001, Bruce Springsteen received a disappointing verdict regarding his domain name BruceSpringteen.com.  Springsteen lost his domain name dispute to Jeff Burgar, a notorious cybersquatter, who has been involved in several domain name disputes.  The WIPO panel ruled 2-1 in favor of Burgar because he mounted a considerable defense against Springsteen, arguing that Bruce Springsteen’s name is not trademarked and offering substantial evidence to support his claims.  The case reflected the case-by-case nature of celebrity brand and likeness domain name disputes.

One year later, in 2002, in Kremen v. Cohen, the court set precedent holding that domain names are personal property.  Kremen focused on a domain name dispute in which people could access pornographic websites.  In Kremen, the registrar of that domain name, Network Solutions, received a fraudulent letter stating that Kremen had been fired and that the board wanted to transfer the domain to Mr. Cohen.  Network Solutions, unaware the letter was fraudulent, transferred the domain without contacting Kremen.  When Kremen contacted Network Solutions, Network Solutions informed him that there was nothing Kremen could do.  So Kremin took Cohen to court.  The court determined that the letter was fake and Cohen was forced to return the domain name and pay any profits he receives.  Additionally, Kremen was awarded $40 million in compensatory damages and $25 million in punitive damages.

And in 2008, Verizon was awarded $33.15 million in damages, the largest amount of damages ever awarded in a cybersquatting case, for its domain name dispute with OnlineNIC Inc.  Verizon sued for a bad faith registration of about 663 similar or identical domain names using Verizon trademarks.

Hutcherson Law’s team of domain name dispute lawyers understand the legal precedent and current status of domain name dispute law.  Contact our team of skilled attorneys to ensure that you are adequately protected.