This guest post was written by Anahit A. Pogosyan, a Juris Doctorate candidate in Southwestern’s Entertainment Law and Web 2.0 course:
GoDaddy, go, but Oscar, please stop, the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has said. In legal terms, the appellate judges ruled recently that GoDaddy Inc. should triumph in a cybersquatting lawsuit brought by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which claimed the giant domain-registration company illegally was profiting off its Oscar-related trademarks.
U.S. District Judge Andre Birotte wrote in his opinion that the Academy failed to show that GoDaddy acted in bad faith by letting customers buy 293 domain names, including academyawards.net, oscarsredcarpet.com, billycrystal2012oscars.com and theoscargoestothehangover.com. Purchasers often did nothing but buy these “parked” domain names, though, in theory GoDaddy might share revenue from advertising on the prospective sites.
The judge said in his 129-page decision that any inadvertent use of names similar to the movie industry’s top honors or any other Academy trademark were unintentional. “GoDaddy reasonably relied in good faith on the representations made by the registrants of the Accused Domains stating that the registration of those domains did not violate any third party trademark rights,” the judge wrote. As a result, GoDaddy could not have used or trafficked … with a subjective bad faith intent to profit from the AMPAS marks until such time as GoDaddy received notice by a third party of a potential issue.”
Birotte said the word Oscar has many meanings, “including as the first or given name of a man, a type of tropical fish, a steak preparation, a designation for the letter ‘O’ in the NATO alphabet, and as an acronym for various governmental and private programs and projects.” Birotte noted that GoDaddy, in good faith, takes steps on its own to try to avoid trademark and copyright infringement by registering customers but that the volume of requests for domain names keeps these efforts from being complete and perfect; it also is not the registrar’s role to be the enforcer of copyrights and trademarks.
The Academy, which marshals a lot of legal might, especially in Los Angeles, said it was disappointed in the appellate decision and may pursue the case further.