Court’s Dismissal of Claims in Cutting-Edge Case Good News for Online Businesses

ORLANDO, Fla.–LAWFUEL – The Law Firm Newswire – A federal court’s dismissal here of a cutting-edge “cybersquatting” case should help internet-based businesses avoid similar lawsuits in remote locations. The good news for online businesses and domain name-related companies came when the U.S. District Court, Middle District of Florida, last week granted a motion to dismiss all claims against L.P., L.P., HappyDays, Inc. and Scott Day in a suit involving claims of cybersquatting under the Anti-Cybersquatting Consumer Protection Act (ACPA). The suit also involved claims of trademark infringement and unfair competition under the Lanham Act, the federal trademark statute. Today, the Court entered a final Order dismissing all claims against all parties to the suit, putting an end to the case after a year of litigation.

“In this case, Oklahoma- and Texas-based companies were sued in Florida, in part, simply because a number of their registered domain names included the names of Florida cities, and those websites had Florida-related content on them. The court rejected this as a basis to force them to defend this suit in Florida. This is one of the only reported cases specifically dismissing claims based on the use of geographic terms in domain names. This confirms the trend of limiting the reach of personal jurisdiction based solely or primarily upon Internet activity,” said Gregory W. Herbert, a shareholder in the international law firm Greenberg Traurig, who represented the defendants.

“The theories that formed the heart of the case — basing a cybersquatting claim on the use of a ‘wildcard’ search function — were unusual and novel. There really was no law on that subject yet, and thus the core claims Plaintiff sued on were unsupported by any existing case law,” Herbert said.

Wildcard search functionality is widely used by Internet-based and domain name companies. Thus a finding of liability in the case could have posed a serious risk of future claims, including broad class-action claims, for any company using Wildcard DNS or other wildcard-type search functions, according to Herbert. “This is what judges call a ‘case of first impression,’ because the ACPA has never been applied to a Wildcard search function before to our knowledge,” he said.

Herbert, an accomplished member of the Litigation and Intellectual Property Departments of Greenberg Traurig’s Orlando office, recently represented blogger Lance Dutson pro bono as lead counsel in what has been called a great victory for the First Amendment Rights of bloggers. In that case, Warren Kremer Paino Advertising agency voluntarily dismissed its multi-million dollar federal lawsuit against Dutson, a Media Bloggers Association member targeted for the content of his blog’s reporting and commentary.

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