Newly Formed Pac-12 Conference Claims Cybersquatting On 5-Year-Old Domain

from the prescient-domaining? dept

Reader Clint points us to the news that the Pac-10 conference (a university "sports league" effective) recently added two new schools to the conference, making it the Pac-12 conference now. Of course, after they did this and went to register the domain pac12.com, they discovered that a business man in Utah already owned it, and had owned it for five years -- long before there was any idea of a Pac-12 conference. Yet that didn't stop the conference from sending a cease-and-desist letter, demanding the domain and accusing him of cybersquatting. The guy, Austin Linford, isn't directly using the domain right now, but bought it for a specific project that has been put on hold due to the economy, but which he intends to do something with in the future. Linford has filed for declaratory judgment that his domain does not infringe, and notes that the conference has been changing its name and number quite a bit lately. Apparently the Pac-10 has gone from that designation to the Pac-16, then to the Pac-11 and back to the Pac-10 in just the time since Linford purchased the URL. It seems we see situations like this all too frequently. Where some large entity seems to think it has the right to a particular domain name, just because they're big, even if someone else had registered it years before.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    John Doe, Mar 15th, 2011 @ 5:46am

    I was an almost victim of a similar letter

    I feel for the guy as I received a similar letter for a domain I own. I got the other part to back off, but it certainly doesn't feel good having your business threatened. Especially by an organization with the clout the PAC-10,11,12,16 has.

    The worst case of this I have ever heard of was Nissan.com. I am sure you have heard of that case, where Nissan Motors tried to bully a guy named Nissan who ran Nissan Computing as a business. At one point, he was allowed to keep the domain, but not use it for commercial purposes. If I was him, I would have put gay porn involving Nissan cars on the site.

     

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  2.  
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    mreggerto, Mar 15th, 2011 @ 5:55am

    As far as I'm aware, the PAC-10 has gone by that name since the 70's, when it changed from the PAC-8. There was some talk of making a 16 team super conference in the last few years, but that never came to fruition, especially not in the last five years since he registered the domain.

    That being said, the conference still shouldn't be allowed to bully somebody with legitimate ownership of a domain. I really hope he ends up selling them the URL for a hefty sum, since apparently the conference doesn't realize most people will find their site through Google anyway, so it really doesn't matter what the name is.

     

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  3.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 15th, 2011 @ 6:00am

    nothing like Nissan.com

    Maybe if he was using the site with a placeholder for a talented musician I can see his point. If his "business" is truly valuable then his URL shouldn't be important. Also if he has such a great commercial venture why hasn't he been able to raise any funding?

    This is nothing like the Nissan case

    Nissan=Commercial business
    pac12=spam placeholder page

    There should be some sort of Internet Imminent Domain rules.

    If you own choice undeveloped property that is of better use to someone else, they should be able to purchase that property for fair compensation without being held hostage by some tool who thinks he's sitting on the next google

     

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  4.  
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    John Doe, Mar 15th, 2011 @ 6:10am

    Re: nothing like Nissan.com

    "If you own choice undeveloped property that is of better use to someone else, they should be able to purchase that property for fair compensation without being held hostage by some tool who thinks he's sitting on the next google."

    Now it may turn out he is cyber-squatting and made up the "business" excuse to do it, but if not, then he has every right to own that domain. Just because someone else has something you want, doesn't mean you get to run to the government to get it.

     

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  5.  
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    byte^me (profile), Mar 15th, 2011 @ 6:19am

    Re: nothing like Nissan.com

    I have to totally disagree with your statement. Just because this person has not done anything with the pac12.com domain name does not mean he should be forced to give it up to someone else, no matter what the price offered is. He purchased it legally, long before the Pac 10 became the Pac 12. By what logic should he be forced to involuntarily relinquish that domain name to another party?

    Also, I am sure that if there were some sort of "Internet Eminent Domain" rules, they would be abused just as much as they are with physical property. I really do not think we need just another rule, law, or whatever that can be easily abused. We already have too many of those.

     

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  6.  
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    Shon Gale (profile), Mar 15th, 2011 @ 6:24am

    Bully boys! I only watch the Ducks anyway. The rest of them are wazoos.

     

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  7.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 15th, 2011 @ 6:29am

    Re: nothing like Nissan.com

    "If his "business" is truly valuable then his URL shouldn't be important. Also if he has such a great commercial venture why hasn't he been able to raise any funding?"

    Funny. If this logic was applied to a musician and copyright, you'd probably be tearing people's heads off.

     

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  8.  
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    Chris in Utah (profile), Mar 15th, 2011 @ 6:32am

    Re: nothing like Nissan.com

    Lets say in Interwebz2.0 there are Imminent Domain "rules". Think he'll get "compensation" for his property then?

     

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  9.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 15th, 2011 @ 6:57am

    They could just use a different URL

    Worst case scenario the PAC-12 chooses a different domain and this guy misses on a payday from negotiating with them. Very short sighted on his part. Way to win one for the little guy.

    Wouldn't any business he tries to open using the name "Pacific 12" after their trademark application be infringing on their trademark? I don't think I could open a store named "Pac-12 Donuts" and not be sued because I was not licensing the name.

     

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  10.  
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    PaulClarkSaintJohn, Mar 15th, 2011 @ 7:15am

    Re: They could just use a different URL

    IIRC, trademark does not apply to all businesses, just the business you are in. As long as the league does not sell donuts or sell the name to donut vendor for sponsorship, you should be able to set up a business called "Pac-12 Donuts".

    You will get letters from the lawyers of course. They have to earn their retainers. As long as you have deep enough pockets (or create a video that mocks the league for haressing you that goes viral), you should be able to keep the name.

     

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  11.  
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    angry dude, Mar 15th, 2011 @ 7:23am

    Masnick, pls be consistent

    Why are you defending some dude who registered but never used some stupid domain name, but at the same time badmouth patent holders who never commercialized their officially issued and not so stupid patents ?

    Be consistent, pleeeeezze

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 15th, 2011 @ 7:35am

    Re: Masnick, pls be consistent

    You're right. Those are exactly the same. The guy who has a patent and never develops anything with it but eventually sues someone for coming up with a similar idea is exactly the same as this guy buying a domain name and not wanting to give it up (note, he isn't demanding that the Pac-12 give him a piece of all merchandise sold, etc).

     

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  13.  
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    goofygoober (profile), Mar 15th, 2011 @ 7:44am

    why does it matter what if anything the owner of any property cyber or physical does with it? If i buy something just to own it that is my right if you want it and i am willing to sell sweet, otherwise i own it its mine who cares what i do with it so long as im not hurting anyone with said property or violating their rights.In a way this term cyber squatting in reference to a url bought but not used is the same as a man/woman coming to town purchasing a home for a "summer" place and not returning, if property taxes are paid and it is maintained to not become a ey sore, would you then call them squaters? and even if it isnt maintained, that isnt squating its just bad ownership,but ownership just the same

     

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  14.  
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    Devilwolf, Mar 15th, 2011 @ 7:53am

    I hope he wins the deal. I lost mine to a non-profit organization that I had. I had purchased a domain and had it for a few years in hopes of using it for future business. A not for profit organization decided they wanted it and the letters started between our lawyers. In the end we ended up in court and it was ruled that since I hadn't used the site I was to sell it to them for the current domain price as if purchased from Godaddy. So basically I lost 3 years worth of payment for the domain and the chance to use the site for a business.

     

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  15.  
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    Clint, Mar 15th, 2011 @ 7:54am

    Clarification

    The Pac-12 hasn't even settled on pac12.com as their domain. According to KSL, a local television station, they received a received an e-mail response from the Pac-12 that states:

    "The process of identifying useful domain names directly related to the new Pac-12 is routine. As part of this process we have obtained, and will continue to obtain, great domain name options. And at some point in the near future we will select one of them before we launch the Pac-12 website this summer."

    They aren't even dedicated to the pac12.com domain. Right now, it is only an option that they will consider for a future website.

    Source: http://www.deseretnews.com/article/700112532/Utahn-in-dispute-with-Pac-10-over-Pac12-website.html

     

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  16.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 15th, 2011 @ 8:44am

    One of the key questions here would be what the pac12.com domain owner intended. Example, if he registered pac11.com through pac20.com with intention of selling them on if the group expanded from being pac10, then his intent could in fact be a cyber squat.

    It isn't a situation that is so cut and dry.

     

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  17.  
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    Sean T Henry (profile), Mar 15th, 2011 @ 8:45am

    Re: I was an almost victim of a similar letter

    I do not know where you saw that he could not use it for commercial purposes since it was and is a commercial web sight.

     

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  18.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 15th, 2011 @ 8:49am

    Re: Re: Masnick, pls be consistent

    The difference is that he isn't planning on suing anyone with his domain. He has is for future reference and if the other party wants they can probably buy it from him. Also there is nothing preventing Pac-12 from using a difference website. pac-12.com perhaps.

     

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  19.  
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    tikkiggodd (profile), Mar 15th, 2011 @ 8:56am

    Re: nothing like Nissan.com

    "If his "business" is truly valuable then his URL shouldn't be important."

    Couldn't that statement be applied to the Pac-12 as well, which would avoid this entire set of events? If he had the site first, whether he's using it or not, that doesn't give the Pac-12 the right to take it from him.

     

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  20.  
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    John Doe, Mar 15th, 2011 @ 9:19am

    Re: Re: I was an almost victim of a similar letter

    That was an edict from the courts during his long, drawn out battle with Nissan Motors. The finally ruling was that he could keep and use it but not before he ran up many $1,000's in lawyer bills.

     

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  21.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 15th, 2011 @ 9:33am

    Re:

    Wait, are you saying that this guy with an interest in the litigation may not have been completely accurate in his description, and Techdirt simply took his inaccurate claims to be true and repeated them?

    I'm shocked, SHOCKED!

     

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  22.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 15th, 2011 @ 9:35am

    Re: nothing like Nissan.com

    Not sure about an "eminent domain name" rule, but I am also skeptical about the truth of this guy's explanation for why he registered the domain.

     

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  23.  
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    fcden, Mar 15th, 2011 @ 9:37am

    sounds fishy

    What kind of business would have a name Pac12? Since his "business" isn't even up and running (is it even registered with his State yet), changing the name would hardly seem to be injurious. I would happily bet anyone that if he were allowed to keep the name, it would be up and running within a few months -- selling jerseys, T's, and sweatshirts of Pac-12 teams (probably TM infringing and made by child labor). I would also bet he is a cybersquatter; they all have a BS story about some company they are ABOUT to start. He'll have his day in court, no doubt, and my final bet is he loses (I am all-in on this one). I am tired of lazy people trying to make a quick buck off of other people's work. Some things are just plain wrong. Not only should he have to give up the domain, he should be prohibited from watching any sport for 10 years. Pac that. Court adjourned.

     

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  24.  
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    goofygoober (profile), Mar 15th, 2011 @ 9:38am

    Re:

    i guess im just confused about the whole deal, so in the real world u can purchase anything in mass quantities,as reference to "if he registered pac11.com through pac20.com" , with the intent to at, a later date, sell for profit,this is legal.But to do the same with urls is squatting?Again, im just confused lol.And if so as set by some legal precedent im not privy to ,as i am not a lawyer and would not presume act as if i know anything about the legalities here,then thats fine but why the use of the word "squatting" then.When i see that some one is squatting, i think of a person or persons unlawfully making residence of a property not legally theirs to reside upon,that being my understanding of the word squatting,couldnt a diff name be used to avoid said confusion when passing the law im obviously oblivious to that makes his intentions a cyber crime,ie "cyber squatting"

     

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  25.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 15th, 2011 @ 9:38am

    Re: Re: nothing like Nissan.com

    "He purchased it legally,"

    Well, maybe.

     

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  26.  
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    Billy Bob Big-Johnson (profile), Mar 15th, 2011 @ 9:46am

    If I bought it, I own it.

    Why is this so hard? When I buy something, assuming it's legal to own, I own it. I can't think of anything else that is contrary to that except for the governments right to eminent domain. Even using the right of eminent domain they need to "buy" the property at "fair market value". What's the "fair market value" of a domain? I believe that it's somewhere between the GoDaddy price and the value of the last published sale. I seem to remember a domain (sex.com) selling for something like $13 Million recently. Why would folks continue to "buy" domains when they could sue for them?

     

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  27.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 15th, 2011 @ 9:48am

    Re: Re: They could just use a different URL

    With a well-known and distinctive mark like Pac-12, though, even donuts could be a problem. Especially since schools and sports conferences license their marks like crazy, so there may actually be the officially licensed donut provider of the Pac-12 out there.

     

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  28.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 15th, 2011 @ 9:50am

    Re: Clarification

    Well, of course. They can't very well make a final decision until they know whether they can get the domain name, can they?

     

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  29.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 15th, 2011 @ 9:54am

    Re: Re:

    If your intent is to snap up a domain name due to its value to another party (which value is due to their business name or trademark), and hold it for ransom, then its cybersquatting.

    In this hypo, the registering of Pac11 through Pac20 would be evidence that his intent was to profit from the Pac10's recognition and desire to keep a form of their name despite expansion.

     

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  30.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 15th, 2011 @ 10:13am

    Re: Re: nothing like Nissan.com

    Why? If he registered it 5 years ago, then what can you see about his explanation that makes you think he is lying?

     

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  31.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 15th, 2011 @ 10:41am

    Re: Re: Re: nothing like Nissan.com

    Well, citing "the economy" as a reason he didn't get his biz off the ground doesn't quite make sense, since the economy wasn't that bad 5 years ago.

    Also, his current use of the domain pac12.com strikes me as a front (buy a "12Pac" of 2Pac songs) designed to look like a "legitimate" use of the domain.

    Maybe as a PAC 10 sports fan and a person that regularly deals with domain name issues I have a different perspective, but the notion of the PAC 10 expanding to PAC __ seems like an obvious domain name speculation to me.

    Plus, there are several references online that predate his registration to a potential "pac 12." He also happens to be in Utah, and the University of Utah is one of the two new members creating the Pac-12.

    I'm not saying I know the truth, but I'm at least skeptical.

     

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  32.  
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    angry dude, Mar 15th, 2011 @ 10:45am

    Re: Re: Re: Masnick, pls be consistent

    Your logic is flawless, punk

    the difference between patent and domain name is that you have to actualy own domain name to use it, but any dirty infringer out there can use patented invention without patent holder being notified

    Anybody can licence my patent for dirt cheap

    So why do they prefer to infringe it without asking ?

    Because they CAN

    This is a universal answer

    Why do Wall Street types get rich while f***ing everybody else ?

    Because they CAN

    And when I get proof of some patent infringement going on I will sue those patent thiefs in federal court

    Because I CAN

    Homo homini lupus

     

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  33.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 15th, 2011 @ 10:47am

    Re: Re: Re:

    You got it. If he did something like this, the intent would be to end up sitting on whatever domain would be most appropriate for an expanded pac-10.

     

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  34.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 15th, 2011 @ 12:48pm

    Re: If I bought it, I own it.

    "assuming it's legal to own, I own it."

    That's the hard part here. Maybe his registration of the domain name (which isn't really "ownership" anyway, but that's another story) was in violation of the law at the time he registered it.

     

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  35.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 15th, 2011 @ 1:25pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: nothing like Nissan.com

    The economy was terrible 5 years ago. Hell, I haven't been able to find a job in almost 10 years, now. Granted, I have physical limitations that keep me from a lot of jobs, but saying 'the economy wasn't that bad' isn't defensible.

    You can be skeptical all you like, I see your reasoning as supposition.

     

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  36.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 15th, 2011 @ 1:27pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: nothing like Nissan.com

    That's actually another point: He isn't holding out for more money, he simply does not want to sell. It's his, and he has plans for it. That sort of puts a bullet in the cybersquatting theory, doesn't it?

     

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  37.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 15th, 2011 @ 2:55pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: nothing like Nissan.com

    While it's hard to measure "the economy" as a whole, five years ago, the Dow was higher than it had been since 2001, and proceeded to rise to an all-time high in late 2007.

    Unemployment was lower than it had been since before the dot-com crash (around 5.5%), and proceeded even lower, to around 4.5% in mid-2007.

     

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  38.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 15th, 2011 @ 2:57pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: nothing like Nissan.com

    How do you know he's not holding out for more money?

    I'm not supposing I know his original or current motivations. I just see reason to question his side of the story.

     

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  39.  
    identicon
    Lawrence D'Oliveiro, Mar 15th, 2011 @ 3:34pm

    Re: nothing like Nissan.com

    How do you know he's not holding out for more money?

    Yeah, the fact that he was able to foresee this situation 5 years ago just proves how diabolical he is.

     

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  40.  
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    btr1701 (profile), Mar 15th, 2011 @ 3:49pm

    Re: nothing like Nissan.com

    > There should be some sort of Internet Imminent
    > Domain rules.

    > If you own choice undeveloped property that is
    > of better use to someone else, they should be
    > able to purchase that property for fair compensation

    Or you could just respect the centuries-old concept of private property rights and recognize that if I own something, I don't have to justify to anyone what I'm doing (or not doing) with it. It's *mine*.

     

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  41.  
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    btr1701 (profile), Mar 15th, 2011 @ 3:51pm

    Re: Re: nothing like Nissan.com

    > Just because someone else has something you want,
    > doesn't mean you get to run to the government to
    > get it.

    Unfortunately, ever since the Kelo decision, that's not the case in the US. Now Wal-Mart or Exxon or whoever can do exactly that: run to the government if they want your property and you won't sell it to them and have the government take it away and hand it over to them.

     

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  42.  
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    teka, Mar 15th, 2011 @ 4:18pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Masnick, pls be consistent

    wow.

    You never fail to impress the crowd with the way you pound your chest and forth at the mouth like that. And, oh, oh! what is your patent number?

     

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  43.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 15th, 2011 @ 4:22pm

    Re: Re: nothing like Nissan.com

    It didn't take a lot of foresight to predict the use of PAC-12.

    At any rate, I'm not sure what your response has to do with whether he's holding out for more money.

    I know that snark and sarcasm is often a substitute for substance here, but that doesn't make it less annoying.

     

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  44.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 15th, 2011 @ 4:24pm

    Re: Re: nothing like Nissan.com

    Actually, the concept of eminent domain is also centuries old, as is adverse possession, which is premised on the notion that if someone isn't using the land enough to know someone else has begun using it, the useful squatter has more right to the land than the legal owner.

    I'm not saying that should apply here, but "the centuries-old concept of private property right" is also subject to centuries-old exceptions.

     

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  45.  
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    btr1701 (profile), Mar 15th, 2011 @ 4:50pm

    Re: Re: Re: nothing like Nissan.com

    > also subject to centuries-old exceptions

    Neither of which applies here.

    Unlike physical land, the Pac12 can't use the domain if someone else owns it, so adverse possession is out as a matter of impossibility.

    And eminent domain is the taking of private property by the government for a public purpose. The government isn't even involved here, let alone using the domain for a public purpose. The Pac12 is a private entity, wanting to use it for their own private purpose.

     

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  46.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 15th, 2011 @ 5:03pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: nothing like Nissan.com

    As I said, I'm not saying either applies here.

    However, part of the underlying rationale for both doctrines might apply (i.e., someone is likely to make a better use of the limited property than the current title holder).

    That absolutely should not be the be-all end-all of property decisions. Even China wouldn't go that far (these days), but I just thought it was worth pointing out that private rights aren't absolute, and it has long been accepted for private rights to give way to others based on reasoning that is not far off from the facts of this case.

    I'm not advocating for online eminent domain application

     

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  47.  
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    Shine (profile), Mar 3rd, 2012 @ 1:02am

    If you own a domain name but you didn't renew the name anymore, you still own it?

     

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


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