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GoDaddy did not cybersquat the Oscars, court finds

Kevin Murphy, September 16, 2015, Domain Registrars

In a landmark decision, a US court has ruled that GoDaddy’s practice of parking unused domains with Google advertising does not count as cybersquatting.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which runs the annual Oscars awards, sued the registrar five years ago after seeing that GoDaddy had parked hundreds of names containing its mark.

Under UDRP, registrar parking is controversially often taken as a sign of the registrants bad faith by panelists.

But the California court ruled that GoDaddy’s actions did not amount to trademark infringement due to the unique circumstances of the case.

GoDaddy did not select the advertisements — Google’s algorithms did — nor did it manually review which domains were being parked.

Domain Name Wire has a pretty good breakdown of the key points in the 129-page ruling.

What’s going to be interesting is whether UDRP panelists — which sometimes take their cues from US legal precedent — will start to adjust to view registrar parking in a more benign way when judging registrant bad faith.

Go Daddy risking Oscars wrath with .buzz premium domains?

The new gTLD registry Dot Strategy included many famous brands on its list of premium .buzz names, including two that could get its partner, Go Daddy-owned Afternic, in hot water.

Until a couple of hours ago, nic.buzz carried what appeared to be thousands of premium listings, organized by category and carrying prices of $1,000 and up, some of which seemed to target brands.

The names of several sports teams, such as 49ers.buzz and blackhawks.buzz, were listed for sale in the sports category (hat tip: Valideus‘ Brian Beckham).

I also spotted listings for domains such as photoshop.buzz (an Adobe software brand) in the technology category and hobbit.buzz (believe it or not, “Hobbit” is a trademark) in an entertainment category.

But the ones that really caught my attention were academyaward.buzz and academyawards.buzz, which carried prices of $1,900 each.

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That’s surprising because if you try to buy these domains you’ll be instructed to contact Afternic, which is handling the premium process. And as of September, Go Daddy owns Afternic.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which hands out the Oscars and owns “Academy Award” and “Academy Awards” trademarks, has been locked in litigation with Go Daddy for the last four years.

The Academy claims that Go Daddy is cybersquatting due to its practice of making money parking its customers’ domains, including domains containing Academy trademarks such as academyawardz.com.

Most recently, Go Daddy tried to get the appointed judge in the case kicked out, alleging that she’s in the Academy’s pocket.

While the lawsuit is certainly controversial, attempting to sell $3,800 worth of domain names matching the Academy’s marks probably wouldn’t help Go Daddy look less cybersquatty to its opponent.

It could be argued that many of the premium names that match brands are also generic — Black Hawks could be helicopters and I’m sure there are plenty of academies in the world that hand out awards.

A legitimate registrant could buy many of these trademark-matching listed names and fight off a UDRP, I reckon.

But when somebody lists the name for sale in a category appropriate to the class of trademark, I’d say that makes the name look a lot less generic.

Bieber is a surname presumably shared by many people, but when you list bieber.buzz for sale in a category related to entertainment it can only really refer to one person.

Somebody yanked the premium listings section from the nic.buzz web site after I requested comments from Dot Strategy and Go Daddy a few hours ago. This post will be updated should I receive said comments.

.buzz is currently in its sunrise period and is due to go to general availability in mid-April. As I’ve said before, it’s one of my favorite new gTLD strings and I wouldn’t be surprised if sells quite well.

UPDATE: Go Daddy said: “Afternic is working with dotStrategy, Co. (the .BUZZ registry) to review the list and revise as appropriate.”

Oscar winners show desire for .movie

As a bit of a film buff, I’ve always thought the case for a .movie gTLD was a slam-dunk.

I’d really rather see movie posters containing URLs like sherlock.movie rather than sherlock-holmes-movie.warnerbros.com.

I thought I’d figure out how many of last night’s Oscar nominees managed to secure movietitle.tld for their official web sites and how many went for other options. (continue reading)