Squatting not like tango; it doesn’t take two

Surrogate's CourtVenkat Balasubramani, over at Eric Goldman’s place, reports on another court suggesting that there is no such thing as contributory cybersquatting, in a case that illuminates the not-so-crazy efforts by trademark owners to find some non-moving target on which to hang some legal responsibility for abuse of its rights:

Plaintiff, Petroliam Nasional Berhad (Petronas), a government owned entity, owns the Petronas Towers in Malaysia. It’s trying to enforce its trademark rights against two domain names (petronastowers.net and petronastower.net). In mid-2010, it quickly obtained relief against both domain names, via in rem actions. These aren’t the disputes before the court. Prior to obtaining in rem relief against the domain names, Petronas urged GoDaddy to disable the website and domain names (the domain names were registered to GoDaddy and GoDaddy provided forwarding services, which pointed the domain names to porn sites). GoDaddy demurred, stating that as the registrar, it could not adjudicate Petronas’s cybersquatting claim and since it did not host the underlying sites, it couldn’t process Petronas’s trademark infringement claim. Petronas is trying to hold GoDaddy liable for not ‘disabling’ the domain name and website at Petronas’s urging. It asserted claims for cybersquatting and contributory cybersquatting against GoDaddy. Its hook for trying to hold GoDaddy liable? GoDaddy “used” the domain names by providing forwarding services for its customers. …

As the court acknowledges, it’s unclear whether courts even recognize claims for contributory cybersquatting. (I blogged about a Western District of Washington case whre Judge Martinez allowed the claim to go forward at the early stages: “Court Allows Microsoft’s Claims for Contributory Cybersquatting and Dilution to Move Forward”; see also Eric’s post about SolidHost v. NameCheap: “Contributory Cybersquatting and the Impending Demise of Domain Name Proxy Services?”). The court analyzes the contributory cybersquatting claim under Perfect 10 and Lockheed and says that Petronas has to show that GoDaddy had knowledge and directly contributed to or induced the infringement. When the defendant provides a service the defendant can be held liable where it exercises “direct control and monitoring of the instrumentality” used to infringe. The court says that there is no evidence that GoDaddy exercised any type of control over the registrant’s use of the forwarding services. The court also says that Petronas has not shown that there is any bad faith by the registrant (the person who utilized GoDaddy’s forwarding services)…

When it comes to secondary liability for trademark infringement based on contribution, it’s all about the control — not just being in a link in the chain.

Again, this is a problem for bona fide trademark holders.  But bravo to judges who recognize that acknowledgment of that problem is not a reason to make it some one else’s problem just because you can.

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Author:Ron Coleman

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3 Responses to “Squatting not like tango; it doesn’t take two”

  1. January 14, 2012 at 8:38 pm #

    ‘contributory cybersquatting’ seems like a contrived term … but doesn’t GoDaddy have to comply with ICANN rules and take down such things per the court ruling anyway? I don’t understand why they’re fighting this.

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  1. Domains J - January 13, 2012

    LIKELIHOOD OF CONFUSION® | Squatting not like tango; it doesn't … http://t.co/iUMR80U0

  2. InternetLaw - January 24, 2012

    “Squatting not like tango; it doesn’t take two” http://t.co/vGZieTiD

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