In a hotly contested domain name dispute, Lewis & Lin today received notice that the World Intellectual Property Organization granted its complaint seeking to transfer the Opentime.com domain name. Our client, Connecting Open Time LLC of Texas, holds a U.S. Trademark Registration for OPENTIME and is the creator of the Opentime scheduling app, which first became available in 2014.
The respondent, an American citizen residing in Japan who was apparently a software marketing professional, registered the domain name in 2016 and contemporaneously filed a trademark application in Japan for OPEN TIME.
In agreeing with us that the respondent lacked legitimate interests to the domain name, a single member panel of WIPO found that “Respondent acquired the disputed domain name after the disputed domain name was put up for sale by Afternic in or about late March 2016, filed a trademark application in March 2016 in Japan (which requires no proof of use) for OPEN TIME, used a privacy service to shield his identity, used the disputed domain name with a click-through portal that included links to timesheet software and related links, and offered the disputed domain name for sale.”
The WIPO panelist further found that the respondent was “likely aware of Complainant when he acquired the disputed domain name” and “failed to come forward with any documentary or credible evidence” that he registered the domain name for a good faith purpose. Accordingly, the panelist ruled that the respondent registered and used the disputed domain name in bad faith, and ordered that the name be transferred to our client.
The case is Connecting Open Time, LLC v. Domains By Proxy, LLC / Kyle Burns and can be accessed here.
Lewis & Lin recently won a motion for summary judgment in our case against a domain name cybersquatter. We represented plaintiff Alpha Recycling, Inc. a New York company that recycles catalytic converters and scrap metal. The defendant was a precious metal broker who sold several million dollars’ worth of catalytic converters to our client before their business relationship soured. During the course of their dealings, defendant registered a number of domain names that used the term “alpha” in relation to recycling services, including
Lewis & Lin filed a complaint in Federal Court in New York asserting claims for cybersquatting under the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act (“ACPA”), as well as common law claims for defamation and trade libel, unfair competition, and trademark infringement. We also filed a motion seeking summary judgment on our cybersquatting claim.
Under the ACPA, to successfully assert a claim for cybersquatting, a plaintiff must demonstrate that (1) its marks were distinctive at the time the domain name was registered; (2) the domain names complained of are identical to or confusingly similar to plaintiff’s mark; and (3) the infringer had a bad faith intent to profit from that mark. The defendant opposed summary judgment on two grounds: that the ALPHA mark was not distinctive, and that defendant lacked the requisite bad faith.
We argued that the term ALPHA, when used in connection with plaintiff’s goods and services, is arbitrary and therefore inherently distinctive and entitled to trademark protection. As to the defendant’s bad faith, we pointed out that visitors to the domains at issue were directed to defendant’s own website. The defendant testified that he redirected the traffic in order to “get back at [Alpha]” because “they had taken away a very large portion of [his] business.” He also posted a video to YouTube with the title “Alpha Catalytic Converter Recycling Experts” that was actually a commercial for defendant’s own business. Finally, we submitted evidence to show that defendant is a repeat cybersquatter who had registered domain names incorporating the marks of other firms.
Judge J. Paul Oetken of the Southern District of New York agreed with us on both points and ruled in our favor. The case is Alpha Recycling, Inc. v. Crosby, No. 14-CV-5015 (JPO), S.D.N.Y.
A federal court in Arizona has delivered a victory to Lewis & Lin’s client, denying a motion for a preliminary injunction seeking to transfer a domain name to the plaintiff in a breach of contract dispute.
Plaintiff alleged to have entered into a contract to buy the domain name on Sedo, the online domain name marketplace. Claiming that it did not receive the domain name after tendering the purchase price, plaintiff sued in Arizona, the state of its principal place of business. Lewis & Lin opposed, arguing that its client, a resident of Lebanon, did not have sufficient contacts with Arizona related to the case to support the exercise of jurisdiction over him.
Plaintiff asserted that our client purposely availed himself to the privilege of doing business in Arizona by (1) registering the domain name with GoDaddy, which is based in Arizona; (2) engaging in contract negotiations with plaintiff, who was based in Arizona; and (3) engaging in various post-complaint activities after knowing that plaintiff was based in Arizona.
Lewis & Lin argued that none of these contacts satisfied the inquiry required to assert jurisdiction over the defendant. First, the registration of the domain name with GoDaddy was not a “but for” cause of the lawsuit. Second, the defendant could not be said to have “purposely availed” himself to Arizona by negotiating through Sedo’s double-blind sales platform. And third, the lawsuit did not arise out of the alleged post-complaint activities.
The court agreed with Lewis & Lin on all of our points. In a nine-page opinion, the court ruled that the plaintiff “has not shown a likelihood of success on the merits or the existence of serious questions because Defendant is not subject to personal jurisdiction in this Court.” The case is Inter123 Corporation v. Ghaith, 2014 WL 1343508, No. CV-14-00463 (D. Ariz. Apr. 4, 2014).
Lewis & Lin obtained another UDRP victory this week, defending the domain name <palace.com> against a complaint filed by the owner of The Palace of Auburn Hills, home to the Detroit Pistons.
The complainant had argued that the domain name was confusingly similar to its registered trademark THE PALACE OF AUBURN HILLS, and its common law rights to the mark PALACE. Complainant further argued that our client lacked rights or legitimate interests to the domain name, and that our client registered and was using the domain name in bad faith.
Lewis & Lin defended the domain dispute on three grounds. First, the domain name <palace.com> was not identical or confusingly similar to a mark the complainant had rights to. Regarding complainant’s federally-registered trademark, its five-word mark combined the generic word “palace” with the geographic modifier “of Auburn Hills,” and therefore obtained distinctiveness only in the combination as registered. Regarding complainant’s allegation that it had common law rights to the term “Palace,” complainant had failed to offer any evidence in support of its claim.
Second, Lewis & Lin pointed out that our client had spent several years prior to learning of the UDRP to prepare to use the domain name in connection with an online gambling business that it was contemplating. Lewis & Lin submitted proof of our client’s actions in creating a website, executing an SEO and marketing strategy, obtaining required licenses, and entering into contracts to develop its business.
Finally, Lewis & Lin argued that the complainant failed to show that our client both registered and used the domain name in bad faith—a required element under the UDRP.
A three-member panel of the World Intellectual Property Organization (“WIPO”) agreed with Lewis & Lin on all three points, ruling for our client, and denying the complaint in its entirety. The full decision is available here.
Lewis & Lin obtained a victory in a UDRP domain name action filed against our client by Laminex, Inc., the owner of the website at <IDshop.com>. The complainant owned a United States trademark registration for the ID SHOP mark, registered in 1989, and provided photography services and supplies associated with identification devices such as ID cards, name badges, and electronic access cards.
Our client, the respondent, had owned and operated a novelty ID shop, housed at <theIDshop.com> since 1998. The website <theIDshop.com> generated over $2 million in sales, serving tens of thousands of customers while employing dozens of employees and expending over $100,000 for promotional purposes.
In addition to arguing that the complainant had failed to meet its burden under the UDRP, Lewis & Lin also argued the complaint failed on the basis of laches. Laches is an equitable legal doctrine that provides a defense when a brand owner has unreasonably delayed in asserting its rights, and thereby unduly prejudices the defending party.
Although laches has rarely been successfully used as a defense in a UDRP proceeding, the three-member UDRP panel agreed with Lewis & Lin that it was appropriate under the circumstances. The respondent registered the domain name in 1998 and has consistently been in business since then, investing substantial sums promoting the business through the <theIDshop.com> domain name. Although the complainant had a trademark with the USPTO for the ID SHOP mark since 1989, it offered no explanation for the 14-year delay in bringing its complaint. The panel concluded that in light of the “unexplained delay in bringing this proceeding, and the demonstrable harm to Respondent should the domain name be transferred,” relief was denied under the doctrine of laches.
The case, Laminex, Inc. v. Yan Smith, FA1211001470990 (N.A.F. Jan. 7, 2013), can be accessed here.