Verizon has been awarded $33.2 million in a "cybersquatting" case against a San Francisco company that registered Internet domain names purposely similar to the telecommunications giant's trademarks. Verizon, however, may not see any money, as the registrar, OnlineNIC, never appeared in federal court to defend itself.
The default ruling said the company "unlawfully registered at least 663 domain names that were either identical to or confusingly similar to Verizon trademarks.," Verizon was awarded $50,000 per name for OnlineNIC's "bad-faith registrations" that were intended to steer traffic away from Verizon's sites.
"This case should send a clear message and serve to deter cybersquatters who continue to run businesses for the primary purpose of misleading consumers," said Sarah Deutsch, Verizon associate general counsel. "Verizon intends to continue to take all steps necessary to protect our brand and consumers from Internet frauds and abuses." The company has won several similar cases.
Complaints about cybersquatting -- setting up a Website using a trademarked name and then profiting by selling the name to the trademark owner -- surged to a record in 2007, according to World Intellectual Property Organization.
Anyone can register domain names for a few dollars per year, but cybersquatters claim popular domain names with the intention of selling them at a profit when the real owners of the names come calling. More recently, Internet entrepreneurs have set up Websites using famous names -- or even versions with typos in them -- and setting up per-click ads leading to the entity's official site.
The practice was barred in the US. in 1999. After declining for several years, incidents began to rise in 2004 and have been climbing in recent years. (info from The Wall Street Journal)