Registrar Responsibility - What Actually Happened?
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The example Dell puts forth in their case describes one incident going back to the end of May 2007. On May 25, 2007, DomainDoorman registered “dellfinacncialservices.com.” They dropped the name on May 30 and minutes later BelgiumDomains picked it up. Again, BelgiumDomains dropped the domain name on June 4, and CapitolDomains picked it back up that same day. After CapitolDomains abandoned the name five days later, it was once again registered by DomainDoorman. The domain was registered through one of the Bahamian shell companies.
The attorney representing Dell says that the defendants bought between 50,000 and 200,000 domains per month, but that's after “tasting” an average of 30 to 60 million domains a month. If true, there would be no question as to whether some form of cybersquatting was taking place, even if the defendants can't be linked to those particular Dell sites. Some of the other domain names linked to Dell trademarks include dellinspirion.com, delloutletcom.com, and dellsuportcenter.com.
In addition to alleging cybersquatting and trademark infringement, Dell is making the unprecedented claim that the defendants are also guilty of counterfeiting. They insist that typosquatting is basically a counterfeit of the trademarked domain name. No comparable legal claims have been made in a such a high profile domain registration case, so it may be difficult to find any kind of legal statute that can coincide with such a claim.
As it stands, federal cybersquatting laws state that Dell could be awarded at least $1,000 per infringed domain name and a maximum of $100,000 per infringement. If the courts find the defendants guilty of counterfeiting, then Dell could be awarded up to $1 million in damages per violation. The case has gone far enough that U.S. marshals have seized the hard drives and other computer equipment from Juan Pablo Vazquez, who is the alleged U.S connection to the registrars in South America.
It will be interesting to see how far Dell will go to collect damages, seeing as it will be difficult to untangle such an elaborate web of offshore companies, some of which may not exist. If they are unsuccessful, Dell could shift their efforts and lobby for a new domain counterfeiting law. It would probably be more cost effective to get a law passed that will work for them in the future than to spend tons of money fighting this case, which they may not even win.
Whether or not a new counterfeiting law does get passed, registrars are definitely going to be in the forefront when it comes to Internet intellectual property infringement. The question remains, how much responsibility, if any, should they bear in a case where their clients are perhaps guilty of such a crime?
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