Domains Dispute Alert: A federal court in Northern California has awarded $33.15 million in a default judgment to Verizon Communications in what the company is calling the largest cybersquatting judgment ever

May 20th, 2010

Today, over at thewogs.org, an article was posted, noting that a federal court in Northern California awarded some $33.15 million to Verizon Communications in what is being called the largest cybersquatting judgment ever. The award amount was calculated based on $50,000 per domain name across 663 domain names registered to OnlineNIC.

Verizon had filed the case against OnlineNIC, a San Francisco-based Internet domain registration company, claiming that OnlineNIC registered exactly 663 domain names that were chosen to be easily confused with legitimate the legitimate Verizon Communications brand.

Among the 663 domain names used by OnlineNIC were; accountverizonwireless.com, bestverizon.net and verizoncellularphone.com, all examples of domain name Web addresses that were designed to confuse people into thinking the Web sites were affiliated with Verizon. Verizon also alleged that OnlineNIC profited from these sites by serving ads for goods or services offered by Verizon rivals.

Judge Jeremy Fogel of the federal district of northern California ruled in Verizon’s favor and ordered the registrar to pay $50,000 per violation. Fogel noted that “Defendant has registered hundreds of domain names that are designed to attract web users seeking to access Verizon’s legitimate Web sites,” Fogel further drew attention to the facts that “Defendant has refused to alter its behavior, and its bad faith is further evidenced by its machinations to avoid detection through the use of fictitious business entities, shell corporations, and kiting of its domain names.”

Triumphantly for Verizon, Fogel also ordered all of the domain names transferred to Verizon and issued an injunction banning OnlineNIC from registering any other names similar to those 663 addressed in this suit.
Sarah Deutsch, Verizon vice president and associate general counsel said in a statement that, “this case should send a clear message and serve to deter cybersquatters who continue to run businesses for the primary purpose of misleading consumers.” Deutsch noted that, “Verizon intends to continue to take all steps necessary to protect our brand and consumers from Internet frauds and abuses.”

Verizon is a member of a not-for-profit coalition founded last year that fights cybersquatting and notes that it has won a string of similar lawsuits.
More can be found on this subject here