Defendants Were Engaged in a Willful and Elaborate Cybersquatting and PPC Advertising Scheme

Oct 27 2009

This was a quote that irked me from the AAA.net lawsuit press release put out by the American Automobile Association I just ran across.  It’s an all too familiar story lately in the domain world.  Three letter domain is parked and a company sharing the acronym tries to take the name.  The American Automobile Association was recently handed over AAA.net but they had to work a little harder than normal. Here are the details of the ruling:

AAA sought transfer of the AAA.NET domain name after it learned that Defendants James M. Van Johns and QTK Internet, Inc. (a/k/a Damian Macafee) were using the domain name to host a pay-per-click (PPC) advertising website. PPC or click-through advertising is the practice of hosting websites with advertising links tailored to the expected interests of Internet users; often, the links are keyed to the title of the domain name, and the website owner profits every time an Internet user clicks on any of these links. AAA contended that the Defendants used the AAA.NET domain name to profit from its association with AAA.

Corporate Counsel for AAA, Jim Brehm, who leads AAA’s trademark enforcement efforts, called the judgment “an important victory for AAA.” Mr. Brehm explained that “AAA has a vigorous trademark enforcement program, and we had never before lost a UDRP proceeding. We felt strongly that the NAF panel reached the wrong decision in this case. The Court’s consent judgment negating the NAF decision confirms our belief in the merits of the case and reinforces the strength of AAA’s valuable and famous trademarks, and it shows would-be infringers the lengths to which AAA will go to protect its trademark rights.”

The importance of this case to me was the fact it was such a generic acronym and it was the only name the NAF didn’t award under the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP) to AAA out of hundreds.  But it wasn’t enough.  Unfortunately,  they took it to court and they defendant’s terrible defense of “we can’t control what ads are the page” was as strong as “we are merely cavemen” defense that used to be on SNL.  With this and the many domains lost lately, any domainer that still has a three letter domain parked is rolling the dice.  If a company with that acronym wants that domain they are simply going to make sure their ads run on the parking page and bye bye, there goes your domain.

While I don’t necessarily agree with the decision, I do agree that money was made off of AAA’s name.  I’d like to see monetary damages, not handing over the domain. But it’s hard to feel sorry for anyone right now that is still parking a domain of that value, especially with any chance that a infringing domain ad would show up.

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Outsmarting the Dumb, Outworking the Smart

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2 comments

  1. Steve Fox

    People think that other companies don’t care for domains. They do! They just don’t want to pay $50,000 so they watch every day until their ad appears and then blam, screenshot. These companies structure the adwords so they will show up on this site. Not hard to do with some research.

    If I contact this company to help them with ppc and other areas they ignore me. Paying $500 for professional help is much less costly than losing a $50,000 domain.

    Kind of funny seeing domainers saying is Divided we stand, divided we fall.

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