The owners of domain names such as dacebook, facegbook and faacebok thought they’d make a fortune from fat-fingered Facebook users. In fact they’ll be paying Facebook around $2.8 million.
Facebook has become one of the first high-profile winners under the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act, a 1999 law that offers limited protection to firms against people trying to profit unfairly from domain names. The law only kicks in where two separate criteria are met: that the name is identical or “confusingly similar” to a well-established trademark, and that the name was registered in bad faith.
The law is a little subjective about exactly how widely recognized a term must be before it can get such protection. That’s not much of an issue in this case as there’s little dispute that Facebook is a well-known term associated with a specific company.
According to TechCrunch, this appears to be the first time that a case has got as far as a court determining the offenders have breached the law and then deciding on a penalty. In this case, none of the offenders entered a defense so it was a default judgment.
Facebook’s lawsuit, which began in July 2011, had asked for the maximum possible penalty of $100,000 for each of the 105 domains cited in the case. The court rules this wasn’t appropriate as it didn’t take into account individual circumstances. Instead the court is setting an individual per-domain penalty of $5,000 for each of the various offenders and then doubling it if:
- they used the domains to set up pages that included logos, wording or coloring suspiciously reminiscent of Facebook itself;
- they used the term “Facebook” (correctly spelled”) on the webpage at their typo domain; or
- they registered domains in bulk (one firm registered 50 terms at once.)
Defendants who tried to hide their true identity when registering a domain will pay a further $10,000.
The court noted the maximum penalty should be reserved for offenders who registered a domain name that was identical to the disputed term rather than being a “typo” version. However, those who used a longer domain name that included “Facebook” (such as gfacebook.com) will pay an extra $10,000.
The verdict also gives Facebook the right to ownership of the disputed domains.