GoDaddy Sued for Cybersquatting for Parked Domain Names–uBid v. GoDaddy

By Eric Goldman

uBid, Inc. v. GoDaddy Group, Inc., 1:09-cv-02123 (N.D. Ill. complaint filed April 6, 2009)

Domain name parking programs have generated some lawsuits, including the Vulcan Golf v. Google lawsuit (plus several “me-too” lawsuits following in its footsteps) and the recent Philbrick v. eNom decision. Here, uBid (the online auction site) goes after GoDaddy for its parked domain name program when the domain names include a uBid trademark. In a mild surprise, uBid only claims an Anti-Cybersquatting Consumer Protection Act violation; it does not claim trademark infringement or the various junky unfair competition claims that often accompany a trademark claim. Maybe those claims are coming in an amended complaint. I’m also interested in the fact that uBid only sued GoDaddy and not the other providers of domain name parking services (of which I believe there are many)–what did GoDaddy do (or not do) to deserve special attention?

Tom O’Toole handicaps uBid’s ACPA claim and raises some questions about the lawsuit.

From my perspective, I remain baffled by lawsuits over domain name parking programs and other programs to associate domain names with ads. First, although I understand that it’s mostly a fight over cash, these lawsuits have always struck me as a manifestation of domain name exceptionalism in that the law treats domain names as having magical search powers compared to other keywords. If displaying ads triggered by the uBid marks in the domain name is so bothersome to uBid, shouldn’t it also be chasing advertisers who buy its trademark for ad triggered at the search engines?

Second, as I explain my Deregulating Relevancy article, there has been a longstanding battle between domain name registries, domain name registrars, toolbar providers, computer manufacturers and others to control the ad inventory of inactive domain names. Even if GoDaddy “turns off” its parking program, others may try to fill the void and monetize the exact same domain names. As a result, I’m still not clear exactly what uBid hopes to accomplish with this lawsuit (other than to take some cash out of GoDaddy’s pocket if it wins).