Disorder in the Court

Josh Bourne ⬥ 29 April

Southern Company (Southern), a Fortune 500 company that provides energy related services in the South, filed for an injunction against Dauben, Inc, a corporation that owns over 600,000 domain names, to suspend its use of the domains sotherncompany.com and southerncopany.com. Southern, which is a Fortune 500 gas & electric utility, had filed a lawsuit against Dauben over the registration and use of sotherncompany.com and southercopany.com—Southern claimed that Dauben was engaged in typosquatting and was therefore in violation of the Anti-Cybersquatting Consumer Protection Act (ACPA).  The district court found that Southern was likely to prevail in its lawsuit and awarded the injunction to prevent any further damage to the company until the matter was officially resolved.

An appeal filed by Dauben, however, vacated the injunction. The appellate court found that the district court was too quick to assume the likelihood of Southern prevailing in its lawsuit against Dauben. Looking to ACPA, the appellate court determined that Dauben may succeed in its defense using the Act’s “fair use” clause and that the district court did not adequately consider how Dauben’s use of the domains caused “irreparable injury” to Southern.

I’m not a trademark lawyer, but in reading the decision, the language that particularly struck me centered around the appellate court’s dismissal of the “irreparable injury” claim. The appellate court stated that the district court inaccurately assessed the confusing similarity of the typo domain names to southerncompany.com and determined that “the likelihood of confusion test in trademark infringement law is different, and more comprehensive, than the test for ‘confusingly similar’ under ACPA.”

CADNA has been pushing for a more comprehensive ACPA for years now. In order for ACPA to be an effective piece of legislation—in other words, a piece of legislation that creates a deterrent against cybersquatting, which is what it was intended to do when it was passed a decade ago—it needs to be brought up to date. Cybersquatting techniques have evolved and continue to evolve; we need ACPA to evolve along with them or else cybersquatters will continue to find loopholes to avoid accountability.

Tags: ACPA, Anti-Cybersquatting Consumer Protection Act, appellate court, CADNA, cybersquatting, Dauben Inc., district court, domain names, enforcement, Fortune 500, injunction, Southern Company, trademark protection, typosquatting

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