Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Northern California Court orders domain name transfer in cybersquatting action

Northern District of California Magistrate Howard R. Lloyd granted summary judgement for Media Lab in a cybersquatting case against Laura Collins of Chula Vista, CA.  The court order requires Ms. Collins to turn the domains, and over to Media Lab and orders her to pay statutory damages of $200,000.

According to Court documents, Media Labs owns a series of websites that offer discounted vacation packages. In October 2000, it hired John Shoffner as its webmaster.  Mr. Shoffner worked with Ms. Collis to redirect traffic from Media Labs sites over to Ms. Collis' sites which were similarly named.  Media Lab sued Mr. Shoffer in Los Angeles County Superior Court and obtained a $222,995.38 judgment against him, thinking he alone was responsible.  Mr. Shoffer subsequently declared bankruptcy frustrating Media Labs' attempt to collect on the judgment.  In 2008, Media Labs sued Ms. Collis for Cybersquatting and trademark infringement.  Ms. Collis wrote an answer, appeared at a settlement conference and never came back.

As a result she did not respond to a set of requests for admissions and the court deemed them admitted.  Ms. Collis ended up admitting to trademark infringement and cybersquatting.
The court explained:
A cybersquatter is liable under the ACPA if she "(1) registers, uses, or traffics in a domain name that (2) is identical or confusingly similar to a distinctive mark, or is identical, confusingly similar to, or dilutive of a famous mark, (3) with a bad faith intent to profit from that mark."
Trademark infringement is using is using a mark to convince an average consumer that the origin of the goods is different than what it actually is.  The Court found Ms. Collis admitted both counts by failing to respond to a discovery request.  Media Lab suffered over $104k in actual damages, but requested $400k in statutory damages as well.  The Court granted $200k in statutory damages due to the number of rerouted domain names.

The Case is Media Labs, Inc. v. Collis No. C 08-4732 and the opinion is below the jump.

Media Lab v. Collis

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