Internet Trademark Case Summaries
Target Adver. Inc. v. Miller
2002 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 8702 (S.D.N.Y. May 15, 2002)
Plaintiffs, an advertising company and its owner, hired defendants as at-will employees to design billboard ads for placement on trucks, to register domain names and design and maintain websites for plaintiffs, and to sell advertising. Defendants registered the domain names “gotarget.com,” “signtrucks.com,” and “adcaps.com,” using their own address in the contact information. After a slow start, plaintiffs’ business picked up at which time defendants demanded a partnership and ownership interest in the business. When plaintiffs refused, defendants withheld a $10,000 payment meant for plaintiffs and allegedly began to sabotage plaintiffs’ business. Although plaintiffs fired defendants in March 2001, defendants maintained ownership of the domain names at issue and control of the corresponding websites until June 2001, allegedly depriving plaintiffs of an estimated 40% of their business. Plaintiffs filed suit for trademark infringement, false advertising, and cybersquatting, among other claims. Defendants filed a motion to dismiss, but the court denied it. Regarding plaintiffs’ ACPA claim, the court rejected defendants’ argument that plaintiffs failed to show that defendants ever used any of the three websites or profited for their use. Initially, plaintiffs did allege in their Complaint that defendants used the three domain names. Moreover, the court noted that the ACPA did not require that defendants profit from the use of the website, but merely that they have a bad-faith intent to profit from the domain names at issue. Acknowledging that this case was different from those contemplated by the drafters of the ACPA, the court found that a plain-language reading of the ACPA not only prohibited the unlawful registration or use of a domain name to profit from its sale, but also the unlawful use of a domain name to profit through its use.