Film Academy Targets GoDaddy in Cybersquatting Lawsuit, Over 100 Domain Names at Issue and up to $10 million in Potential Damages

June 3rd, 2010

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, (Film Academy) has recently filed a 134 page complaint against GoDaddy.com, for trafficking in unauthorized trademarks.

GoDaddy.com is a supergiant in the domain registration business and is also the same brain behind the memorable 2009 Super Bowl ad, which featured the star female race car driver Danica Patrick.cybersquatting lawyers

The Hollywood Reporter noted that the over 100 domain names targeted in the suit mostly involve the Film Academy’s prestigious and trademarked “Oscars”. Targeted domain name examples include 2011oscars.com, academyawardz.com, jaylenososcars.com, betacademyawards.com, oscarsunplugged.com, oscarshotels.com, oscarstravel.com, oscarsliveblogging.com.GoDaddy.com has been profiting from domain owners through a “parking” program which pays users on a pay-per-click basis. Pay-per-click programs run by domain registrars allow users who register a domain name to gain revenue by “parking” the site. Instead of normally loading content on the site, the domain owner gives control of the site to the registrar from which it was purchased and the registrar pays the domain owner on a pay-per-click basis. Upon purchase of a domain name, owners are given the option to ‘park’ the site, whereby the domain registrar will turn it into a pay-per-click site that generates revenue for the domain owner whenever the links are clicked.

The Legal Satyricon analogized the ‘Parking’ of domain names to a billboard on a building that is under construction in that it is not illegal and does give the viewer some indication of what the site is while not actually providing any of the services that the building/site is actually under construction for.

GoDaddy refers to its own pay-per-click program as “CashParking”.

The “CashParking” program allows consumers to buy a domain name, “park” the page with the domain registrar (GoDaddy.com) and then collect a portion of revenue from GoDaddy’s advertising partners on a pay-per-click basis. The problem between the Film Academy and GoDaddy arose because the great many domain names that GoDaddy is using as “parked” sites are allegedly infringing on Film Academy’s trademark ‘Oscars’ by diverting traffic.

When these pay-per-click websites operate by hijacking traffic from a registered trademark, they are breaking the law. GoDaddy is allegedly in violation of the ACPA’s, 15 U.S.C. § 1125(d) for operating a pay-per-click site that is diverting traffic from a registered trademark. This subjects GoDaddy to up to $100,000 in damages, forfeiture of interfering domain names, and reasonable attorney’s fees.

If you are faced with a cybersquatting case under the UDRP or the ACPA, contact one of our cybersquatting attorneys today.  You may be entitled to recover your domain name through a cybersquatting case under the UDRP or the ACPA.