Vulcan Golf v. Google, 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 22155 (Mar. 20, 2008). Cases of Interest >  Cyberlaw >  Trademark Cases of Interest >  Cyberlaw >  Trademark >  Initial Interest Confusion Cases of Interest >  Cyberlaw >  Trademark >  Domain Names Cases of Interest >  Cyberlaw >  Trademark >  Dilution

Vulcan Golf v. Google

Vulcan Golf and others filed a class action suit against several conspirators (“parking company defendants”) who registered domain names that are similar to Vulcan’s (and others') website but slightly misspelled. Google collaborated with the other defendants to advertise on the defendant’s sites. The “parking company” defendants admitted that they picked those names in hopes to cash in on traffic that intended to go to Vulcan Golf. Plaintiffs sue on 14 counts of state and federal law violations including trademark infringement, trademark dilution and cybersquatting. This ruling is on the defendants’ various motions to dismiss.

The Parking Company defendants hold about 7 million domain names and are clearly in the cybersquatting business. Vulcan Golf does have a registered trademark, and the infringing sites are confusingly similar to it. Thus, the court denied motion to dismiss ACPA claim. Google’s motion to dismiss on this count was also denied because it could be liable for “trafficking in” a domain name since it pays the defendants to advertise. Unlike the defendants in Lockheed, the defendants here are doing more than just registering domain names, they are actually determining names that other people may want to use and registering them. The court also denied the motion to dismiss the trademark counts and Google’s claim that since they had no knowledge, and since notification they have deleted all the infringing sites, they should be dismissed.

Basically, this is a classic cybersquatting/typosquatting case and all the motions to dismiss were denied except for a couple relating to trademark dilution and Lanham Act confusion because one or more of the plaintiffs failed to meet the elements. The interesting part is Google’s potential liability for paying
“registrants for its use of the purportedly deceptive domain names, providing domain performance reporting, participating in the tasting of domain names, using semantics technology to analyze the meaning of domain names and select revenue maximizing advertisements and controlling and maintaining that advertising.” However, most of Google’s motions to dismiss were denied because Google was requesting that the court look at facts beyond the pleadings, which is inappropriate at the motion to dismiss level.

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