Summit Entertainment Sues Guy Who Registered Twilight.com In 1994 For Trademark Infringement

from the are-you-freaking-serious? dept

Movie studio Summit Entertainment has become somewhat notorious for its ridiculously over aggressive attempts to "protect" what it believes is its intellectual property. Just look at the list of stories, we've written about the company. It has shut down fanzines, stopped a documentary about the real town where Twilight is supposed to take place, sued a fashion designer for accurately noting that one of its jackets was worn by "Bella" in Twilight, been involved in a legal battle with Bath & Bodyworks for selling a body lotion called "Twilight Woods," which had nothing to do with the movies, and pressed criminal charges against a fan who tweeted some photos from the movie set of the latest Twilight flick.

This is a company that has a massive entitlement complex, and a somewhat faulty notion of intellectual property law.

Its latest move is to sue the guy who owns Twilight.com -- which he registered in 1994, eleven years before Stephenie Meyer published the first Twilight book and thirteen years before Summit Entertainment bought the movie rights to the book. The site, which is rather simple, does present some Amazon links to let people buy legitimate Twilight products (something you'd think Summit would like...).

The key complaint, once again, shows the technological cluelessness of Summit. The studio says that the site infringes with links to unauthorized Twilight contests and casting calls. But, as THREsq points out in the link above, Summit appears to be confusing the content found in the Google AdSense on Twilight.com with specific links put up by the site's owner, Tom Markson. One hopes that Markson can find himself a good (pro bono?) lawyer who can explain to Summit and the court that this is not how trademark law works.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    HothMonster, Sep 9th, 2011 @ 2:03pm

    im confused, what was this site used for before twilight came around? Seems like he bought the name knowing someday someone would want it. Looks like that day has come but the people who want it don't want to buy it from him when they can try to sue him out of existence for psychically infringing their ip.

     

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  2.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 9th, 2011 @ 2:04pm

    I think the problem isn't in the domain itself, but rather that since the movies have come out, the site has been shifted towards selling Twilight movie stuff via Amazon's affiliate program.

    While the site clearly isn't the "official movie site" or anything like that, the quantcast number of 300,000 ranking would suggest something like 1000 people a day more more hitting the site. That suggests that it fails the old "moron in a hurry" test.

    Basically, if the site wasn't about the movie, and wasn't trying to sell stuff from the movie, there likely wouldn't be an issue.

     

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  3.  
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    Aaron Von Gauss, Sep 9th, 2011 @ 2:06pm

    Media Doesn't Get It

    Using the same level of standards applied in their complaint, it sounds more like Tom Markson should be suing Stephanie Meyer and Summit Entertainment for infringement. Yes, that's a completely ludicrous statement but so is their complaint.

     

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  4.  
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    Dan, Sep 9th, 2011 @ 2:12pm

    Re:

    Not to mention that the guy is obviously a domain squatter. Sure, he bought the domain before the movie Twilight came out, but he also has links for Twilight Zone related material. It looks like he bought the domain with the intention of raking in revenue from any "moron in a hurry" who tries to go to that domain.

    From looking at what has been there over the years, there has never been any real content on the domain. Before the book/movie it had no dedicated purpose other than to host various ads or link to other sites that have real content.

     

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  5.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 9th, 2011 @ 2:13pm

    Summit Entertainment should be sued for bothering this guy.i would want to sue them if they did this to me.
    more fuckin bullshit from these MAFIAA CLOWNS !!!!

     

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  6.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 9th, 2011 @ 2:16pm

    Re: Re:

    Actually, he isn't a domain squatter at all. He didn't buy the domain to make money from "morons in a hurry", but he does appear to have shifted his business model to that level.

    He could easily have used the domain for almost any other purpose (how about sunrise / sunset shots from around the world). He clearly is playing off of the movie.

    Do you think he would have any income if the domain was genericdomain1078272.com ?

    The rest answer itself, and makes me wonder why Mike supports this stuff.

     

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  7.  
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    Jeffhole (profile), Sep 9th, 2011 @ 2:19pm

    Yep

    These things are the reason why I downloaded these ridiculous movies for my girlfriend rather than buying them. Once I explained why, she was all like "Cool."

     

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  8.  
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    theDude, Sep 9th, 2011 @ 2:34pm

    why not?

    "This is a company that has a massive entitlement complex, and a somewhat faulty notion of intellectual property law."


    Hey the lawyers get paid win or lose hehe.

     

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  9.  
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    mikey4001 (profile), Sep 9th, 2011 @ 2:35pm

    "One hopes that Markson can find himself a good (pro bono?) lawyer who can explain to Summit and the court that this is not how trademark law works."

    Summit has heaps of money. Markson does not. Summit gets what it wants. Markson can GDIAF. I was under the impression that this is exactly how trademark law works. What have I missed?

     

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  10.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 9th, 2011 @ 2:46pm

    Re:

    Visiting the Wayback Machine, the site was used, or at least rented out to Shadow Island Games for a long time and the transitioned to a state of "under construction" with a link to Amazon way back in 2000. So nothing really changed much once Twilight got big.

     

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  11.  
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    Hugues Lamy (profile), Sep 9th, 2011 @ 2:47pm

    Wayback machine

    Have a look for what was there before the Twilight books were written:

    http://wayback.archive.org/web/*/http://twilight.com/

    Have fun!

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 9th, 2011 @ 2:47pm

    Why doesn't anyone sue Summit Entertainment for vampire infringement. That Twilight crap is awful.

     

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  13.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 9th, 2011 @ 2:57pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    Supports? No he doesn't. He just points out it's wierd to sue twilight.com for tradmarks when the site was there before the actual twilight series.

    It'd be like me making a movie titled the legend of zelda then suing nintendo for infringement, some 20 years after they used the name first.

     

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  14.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 9th, 2011 @ 2:59pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Weird, not wierd!

    I need to proofread better or the spelling nazis will send me to the gas chambers.

     

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  15.  
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    Prashanth (profile), Sep 9th, 2011 @ 3:03pm

    It reminds me of this: http://www.nissan.com/ (Basically, a guy with the last name Nissan apparently registered his website for computer hardware sales before the car corporation Nissan did, yet the big company Nissan sued this guy.)

     

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  16.  
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    That Anonymous Coward (profile), Sep 9th, 2011 @ 3:07pm

    So he had an 11 year head start, and Summit not doing due diligence missed the fact that he owns Twilight.com. I'd love to see the internal memo where they decided it wouldn't be worth trying to acquire the domain.

    Now they want to sue him for shoving a few ads up on a server he has had over a decade before the book came out, to help pay off the bandwidth spike caused by Summit not being able to communicate to their customers the websites they own.

    This has happened before, YouTube and UTube.
    UTube predates YourTube, should Google have the right to run this other company off because people are stupid?

    Once upon a time, it was just a matter of commonly mixed up websites would post a link at the top of the page saying... did you really mean to go here? And that was the end of it.

    Heck Opera had an amazing time dealing with Oprah fans. The queen of media didn't try to crush them under her foot.

    Summit wants the world to work exactly how they want it to, and when it doesn't they just start suing to get their way. Had Summit invested any time into acquiring these things before the nuke hit, this would have been a non issue. The domain owner has done nothing wrong, he happened to own the right name (way in advance) at the right time. He isn't offering full downloads of the movies, and most likely isn't pulling in a million dollars from his links.

    Summit once again needs to go pound sand and get over themselves. They do understand there are only X books in this series to cash in on, and then there is no more. Trying to wring a few more cents out of the cash cow just gets you bad press.

     

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  17.  
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    el_segfaulto (profile), Sep 9th, 2011 @ 3:19pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Vee have vays of correcting your talk.

     

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  18.  
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    JackSombra (profile), Sep 9th, 2011 @ 4:03pm

    Re: Re:

    "It looks like he bought the domain with the intention of raking in revenue from any "moron in a hurry" who tries to go to that domain."
    Logical... until you realize he bought the domain before morons had anything to be in a hurry about

    Someone jokingly points out below he would have a case against summit for infringement, but actually truth be told, he would have a stronger case against them than they would have against him...just become you become bigger/more famous does not give you greater rights than those who came first and this guy was "first"

     

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  19.  
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    PRMan, Sep 9th, 2011 @ 4:11pm

    Re:

    Sued him for a decade...

     

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  20.  
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    Jeffrey Nonken (profile), Sep 9th, 2011 @ 4:56pm

    "One hopes that Markson can find himself a good (pro bono?) lawyer who can explain to Summit and the court that this is not how trademark law works."

    With a brick. And a 3D20+100 clue-by-four.

     

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  21.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 9th, 2011 @ 5:45pm

    Re:

    What part of 1994 did you miss?

     

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  22.  
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    G Thompson (profile), Sep 9th, 2011 @ 10:52pm

    Re:

    Lots

    http://web.archive.org/web/20030603183059/http://www.twilight.com/tops20.html

    http://wayb ack.archive.org/web/19980601000000*/http://twilight.com

    Though recently (last 3yrs or so) seems to be exclusively about the Sparkly crappy Vampire books

    I see he know has a Twilight Zone link.. My advice would be to redo the site as a twilight zone homage, or something to do with Twilight itself, you know that time between sunset and full night ;)

    I can see the case that Summit might have. Seems like looking at the wayback machine you can see he states the website is not for sale unless a large sum is involved. Dunno..

     

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  23.  
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    Marcel de Jong (profile), Sep 10th, 2011 @ 2:47am

    Culture of Ownership

    Ah the culture of ownership at its finest. I'm sure that Summit will sue the gods next for having the gaul to invent something like twilight...
    or how about Rod Serling for creating a show called "Twilight Zone".

     

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  24.  
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    PaulT (profile), Sep 10th, 2011 @ 3:30am

    Re: Culture of Ownership

    "having the gaul"

    I suspect you meant to type "gall", unless you think that Summit use the French to invent things ;)

     

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  25.  
    identicon
    Perry Ahern, Sep 10th, 2011 @ 5:37am

    The Wayback Machine

    All anyone has to do is take a look at the Wayback Machine to see that this was just some guy's private gaming and misc. projects site for years: http://wayback.archive.org/web/20080715000000*/http://twilight.com

    Most of the time it went back and forth between links to PBEM games, info for organizations he got involved with like SCA, and a "coming soon" page that never delivered. It wasn't until somewhere between the April 11 and May 3, 2008, snapshots that the first links to commercial products appeared, and they were for the Twilight Zone collections on Amazon. The first Twilight link appeared a few months later, also to Amazon.

    This is just the story of some guy who bought a cool domain name way back before anyone really cared about them and toyed with it for years, then decided to try to make some money from it through sponsored links. There's no infringement of any kind here.

     

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  26.  
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    hmm (profile), Sep 10th, 2011 @ 9:26am

    thanks for the giggle!

    >>They do understand there are only X books in this series.

    Someone forgot their basic maths class......

    Shitty books with no redeeeming value * number of idiots on planet*profit per cinema ticket^2 = release more books (regardless of whether or not we have any new ideas....just steal or rehash other peoples ideas or the previous books with a few names changes!)......FOR FUCKS SAKE WE HAVE NOTHING ELSE!!!!!!!

    I think thats the correct formula.

     

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  27.  
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    hmm (profile), Sep 10th, 2011 @ 9:28am

    oh btw

    I have a website & a guild in world of warcraft called twilight.

    It pre-exists the movies but I'd LOVE summit to try finding/suing me because I'm sure I could fuck them over in the courts for a nice tidy sum

     

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  28.  
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    That Anonymous Coward (profile), Sep 10th, 2011 @ 12:33pm

    Re: thanks for the giggle!

    No thankfully she has moved on from the sparkly vampires.
    Her new series is about mermaids, I wonder if their scales will sparkle like diamonds on the sunlight... *giggle*

    Another variable for your math formula, is the target demographic has been aging and getting other tastes. You'd think the number of "cougars" one could find at twilight screenings could prove this wrong, but there were just there to look at the hunky young men not the story.

     

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  29.  
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    wvhillbilly (profile), Sep 10th, 2011 @ 9:23pm

    Trademark infringement?

    Shades of Monster Cable suing anybody and everybody who used the generic work "Monster" in any kind of commercial context. They even sued Disney over the movie, "Monsters Inc."

     

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  30.  
    icon
    The Devil's Coachman (profile), Sep 11th, 2011 @ 6:24am

    Re:

    I think a nice forty ounce ash baseball bat gives a much better swing than a squared-off piece of lumber. And the nice "Thwack!" it makes as cortical and sometimes sub-cortical matter paints the floor, ceiling and/or wall is a very satisfying sound. Stops frivolous litigation cold! Every time!

     

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  31.  
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    The Devil's Coachman (profile), Sep 11th, 2011 @ 6:29am

    Re: Trademark infringement?

    You mean the same Monster Cable that sells ludicrously over-priced shit to slack-jawed goobers at Best Buy? Anyone who buys their worthless crap at anything less than a ninety percent discount is, by definition, a slack-jawed goober and a total loser. They need to die in a fire!

     

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  32.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 11th, 2011 @ 11:46am

    Re:

    "guy who owns Twilight.com -- which he registered in 1994, eleven years before Stephenie Meyer published the first Twilight book and thirteen years before Summit Entertainment bought the movie rights to the book."

     

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  33.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 11th, 2011 @ 11:48am

    twi·light Noun/ˈtwīˌlīt/1. The soft glowing light from the sky when the sun is below the horizon, caused by the reflection of the sun's rays from the atmosphere.
    2. The period of the evening during which this takes place, between daylight and darkness.

     

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  34.  
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    Ash Crill, Sep 11th, 2011 @ 11:45pm

    AdSense

    As Masnick notes, the site owner didn't place any links to twilight-related sites on his page.

    It is the AdSense and Adwords engines run by Google that place 'twilight' ads on the site. The engines are run by relevance algorithms.

    If they really want to sue the right person, they need to sue the person running the twilight ads on AdWords as they are the ones linking to twilight-related content.

    Surely it should be easy to get this cased tossed out, right?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  35.  
    identicon
    Ash Crill, Sep 11th, 2011 @ 11:48pm

    hmm

    I finally got twilight.com to load, and the site itself does link to twilight merchandise, so the site owner did create the links.

    I guess he is indeed guilty of providing free marketing services for Summit Entertainment.

     

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  36.  
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    hmm (profile), Sep 12th, 2011 @ 1:49am

    monster

    I don't think monster cable went ahead with the Disney lawsuit.

    I seem to remember sending an email a while back challenging monster to sue them (I used the phrase "you'll be torn into teeny tiny unshielded pieces).

    I got a reply from their lawyers saying they had no plans to challenge Disney (precisely because Disney would utterly obliterate Monster Cable from existence if they even tried)

     

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  37.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 12th, 2011 @ 10:00am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    "He just points out it's wierd to sue twilight.com for tradmarks when the site was there before the actual twilight series."

    I think he's doing a bit more with his editorializing than saying "that's weird." Don't you?

     

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  38.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 12th, 2011 @ 10:01am

    Re: Re: Re:

    No, simply registering and/or parking a domain name does not give you trademark rights.

    He does not have a stronger case against Summit than Summit has against him.

     

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  39.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 12th, 2011 @ 10:02am

    Re: why not?

    But you don't continue to get paid by the same clients if you lose for them too often.

     

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  40.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 12th, 2011 @ 10:04am

    Re: The Wayback Machine

    I'm not so sure. Regardless of when he registered the domain name, if he is now using it to profit off of confusion with the Twilight books/movies, he's not in the clear.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  41.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 12th, 2011 @ 10:07am

    Re: AdSense

    "As Masnick notes, the site owner didn't place any links to twilight-related sites on his page."

    The first link I see is "Twilight Series by Stephenie Meyer," which links to an Amazon page for the books.

    Also, I think this is a case where he could be held responsible for the Twilight ads that Google serves for his site.

    It will not be easy to get this case tossed. I actually think this case could win.

     

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  42.  
    identicon
    Flem, Sep 14th, 2011 @ 10:52am

    What?

    When there's too many hands reaching for that same slice of pie. It's only the ones that can take the food out of someone else's mouth that have more. Welcome to overpopulation.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  43.  
    identicon
    Davol, Sep 14th, 2011 @ 2:09pm

    Re:

    As if the word "Twilight" wasn't even in the dictionary before. Twilight had no meaning to anybody prior to those movies I've never even wanted to see. Maybe Summit Entertainment should sue Websters Dictionary. What was Websters using that word for before the movies were made?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  44.  
    identicon
    CAPTAIN OBVIOUS, Sep 16th, 2011 @ 6:39am

    Re:

    The article clearly states he purchased the site 11 years prior to the first book being published. Short of us assuming time travel it is impossible to substantiate the legitimate site owner had any possible knowledge of a book. More importantly these types of frivolous suits should be painfully punished by the courts. I really could care less what he bought the site for as the timeline makes the plaintiffs case a pile of crap

     

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  45.  
    identicon
    Caff Jacked, Sep 24th, 2011 @ 4:41pm

    Re: monster

    Didn't they also sue the company that makes "Monster" energy drinks?

     

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  46.  
    identicon
    flink, Mar 19th, 2012 @ 3:24pm

    Re: Re:

    You couldn't care less.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  47.  
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    Charlie Potatoes (profile), Mar 19th, 2012 @ 3:45pm

    Major Obvious

    So why doesn't he get a nice non pro bono mouthpiece and sue Twilight's ass off for infringing on his site and domain name??

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  48.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 19th, 2012 @ 6:49pm

    Update: network solutions whois says Tom Markson is the owner, and has been since 1994. Summit must not have won. But the website twilight.com is down.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  49.  
    identicon
    dr evil, Mar 19th, 2012 @ 9:55pm

    its gonna happen to me

    I have a domain.. had it for a decade. Got an email from a group who trademarked that name a couple of years ago. I wouldnt sell. In their trademark, they lifted text from my domain (copywritten, of course) that had nothing to do with their primary business and claimed it in their trademark application. All has been silent since. So I get to sue them for violating copyright when they come after me for trademark?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  50.  
    identicon
    dr evil, Mar 19th, 2012 @ 10:02pm

    the site is back up

    and now refers, in one part, to the Twilight Zone. Whoa... another lawsuit?! Doesn't that mean that Twilight violated the Twilight Zones trademark by lifting the word Twilight? That would be a fun court battle, because I confuse the two all the time.

    Twilight twilight twilight...
    bad literature ruining lives.....

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  51.  
    identicon
    WeZ, Jul 1st, 2012 @ 2:12am

    Re:

    Twilight is renting the domain from the man they were suing, pretty sad what Summit tried to pull. I guess this Markson guy is pretty decent after all? Hopefully Markson was able to recoupe his legal costs... So, the intention of this lawsuit seems pretty obvious to me... how about all of you?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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