In 1999, Congress passed the Anti-Cybersquatting Consumer Protection Act (ACPA) as an amendment to the Lanham Act. The bill defined cybersquatters as people who register a trademark with “bad faith intent to profit” from it, or anyone who traffics in “protected” domain names.
The ACPA is being invoked in the case of Petrolium Nasional Berhad, a Malaysian company that owns the trademark to the name “Petronas.” However, a third party registered the domain names “petronastower.net” and “petronastowers.net” in 2003.
A short time later, the owner transferred the rights to GoDaddy.com, one of the largest domain name registrars in the world. The rights were then sold to another party who chose to use the address for an unaffiliated porn website.
Petronas tried to get GoDaddy to remove the pages, but the web company argued that it did not host the website and had no control over its content. If Petronas wanted to shut it down, it would have to contact the actual owner of the domain names.
The oil and gas company sued GoDaddy under the ACPA, and charged it with contributory liability for the cybersquatting. However, the defendant argued that the language in the ACPA did not cover shared liability.
GoDaddy argued that it was impossible to judge each user’s intent when they registered domain names. That kind of major change would have a drastic impact on its operations.
A Ninth Circuit judge agreed, saying there was no “bad faith intent” on GoDaddy’s part. She ruled that shared liability among multiple parties was not covered under the ACPA.
Petronas tried to appeal to the Supreme Court, but the judges declined to hear the case. The lower judge’s ruling will stand, and GoDaddy Inc. will continue operating the same way.
Cybersquatting is a real problem, and prosecuting offenders is not easy. You may need help defending your intellectual property, and the right attorney could make all the difference in your case.
Business law firm Klein Trial Lawyers has been helping California businesses protect trademarks and patents for almost twenty years. If your brand is under attack, discuss the details of your case with Robert G. Klein today.
[Did You Know: A person who buys a domain name before it becomes famous is not considered a cybersquatter.]
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