MGM vs. Cyber Squatters: A Federal Judge Has Made a Ruling
Back in December news broke that MGM Resorts was filing a lawsuit against four individuals and two companies on the charges of cyber squatting on poker domain names. MGM Resorts’ claim was that those sites created websites during 2002-2005 with domain names that were suspiciously similar to MGM properties.
Recommended: Check out the details on what led MGM Resorts to take legal action in this case.
The domain names in question and their specific owners were bellagioonlinepoker.com registered by Evan Krentzman, circuscircuspoker.com registered by Roberto Ciamillo, excaliburpoker.com registered by Adam Majewski, mandalaybayonlinepoker.com registered by entity RevNet, luxorpoker.com and mgmpoker.com registered by entity PokerSons, and ariapoker.com registered by Shahram Kolahzadeh.
The lawsuit charged that the online gambling sites mentioned above were profiting by taking advantage of trademarked names for which MGM had spent millions of dollars in advertising. It isn’t hard to figure out which MGM properties the domain names resemble (Bellagio, Circus, Excalibur, Aria, Luxor, Mandalay Bay and MGM.) However, one of the defendants, Adam Majewski, chose to fight MGM and filed a motion to dismiss claiming that there are many businesses that use the name Excalibur and that it is not a distinctive name.
The federal judge didn’t think Majewski had a case and announced his verdict siding with MGM. The judge’s statement, which was released last Friday, stated that he believed that MGM Resorts will suffer “irreparable injury to its valuable trademarks and associated goodwill” if the defendants are not enjoined from “transferring the domains to other domain name registrars or from transferring their registrations for the domain names to other persons or entities. The judge also ruled that the domain names have harmful similarities to MGM trademarked casino names.
The domains’ hosting firms, GoDaddy.com, Incorporated, Wild West Domains Incorporated, and Melbourne IT Incorporated, were ordered to place the domains on hold and lock and to deposit them with the Court. The judge also stated that this move aims to protect consumers against deception and confusion arising from domain names containing MGM’s trademarks.
So What’s Up? Why Are Domain Names Important?
Well, it seems like MGM was favored due to the absurdly obvious similarities between those guys’ domain names and their trademarked casino names. It also seems like those guys couldn’t compete with MGM’s lawyers (there are plenty of arguments to defend those guys that draw back to the US Constitution, freedom of expression that could’ve fought harder against the private property and trademark rights arguments MGM lawyers were working with.)
Whatever claim you pick to be more reasonable, the lesson to learn here is that, unless you can afford top-class lawyers, you should be really careful when choosing domain names. This legal case was an example that using keyword-rich domain names does not mean take unique words/names that are popular already and add a few words to “differentiate” your site from theirs. It may be very effective, and those guys probably had extremely popular sites (or at least I hope they did so it was worth going through this legal battle), but the truth is that you can’t keep that boat floating for too long.
Recommended: The Importance of Good Domain Names
Do you think affiliates should be able to choose domain names similar to existing ones as long as they are actually different? Or, do you think big companies have earned the exclusive rights to those names and affiliates should abstain from using anything that resembles them? I think it’s an interesting debate, so please share your opinion here and/or at our forums!