EXCLUSIVE: The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is known to be quite litigious in protecting its Oscar rights. But dare we say it has outdone itself this time with a whopping 134-page lawsuit against domain registration giant GoDaddy.com and its subsidiaries for trafficking in unauthorized trademarks.
Suing under the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act, the Academy disputes more than a 100 domain names, including 2011oscars.com, academyawardz.com, jaylenososcars.com, betacademyawards.com, oscarsunplugged.com, oscarshotels.com, oscarstravel.com, oscarsliveblogging.com … etc. Damages could total as much as $10 million.
AMPAS takes issue with the fact that GoDaddy customers are allowed to monetize domain names that are allegedly confusingly similar to its famous marks. Specifically, GoDaddy runs a “CashParking” program that allows users to buy a domain, “park” the page and collect a portion of revenue from GoDaddy’s advertising partners on a pay-per-click basis. The practice has recently begun to draw scrutiny from legal observers who have asked, “Is GoDaddy a Mass Cybersquatter?.”
The Academy has decided to shell out big legal fees to find out the answer, hiring three law firms including star litigator David Boies’ firm (but not its usual go-to lawyer, Quinn Emanuel’s David Quinto) to handle this matter.
Pointing to a patent application by GoDaddy, the Academy claims the domain registrar recognizes a need to filter its system for third-party trademarks from unscrupulous cybersquatters. Despite the patent application, GoDaddy is said to be continuing to profit on the backs of trademark holders through its CashParking program. To win in court, the Academy will need to show the defendant acted in “bad faith” in its use of the domains.
GoDaddy’s program has sparked other lawsuits, but given how aggressively the Academy pursues its legal foes, this lawsuit could be a contender for trademark battle of the year.
The Academy is demanding $100,000 in damages per domain name infringement so given the amount of domain names in contention, it could add up to more than $10 million.
GoDaddy gave us the following statement: “GoDaddy.com does not comment on pending litigation, but we take exception to anyone calling Go Daddy a cybersquatter.”