‘Domainer’ Sues for Declaratory Judgment That Domain Name Does Not Violate Company Trademark


A federal case out of Las Vegas recently caught the eyes of our Chicago Internet trademark litigation attorneys. A Texas man who invests in domain names has sued to establish that one of his domains does not infringe on a similarly-named company’s trademark rights, the Las Vegas Sun reported Aug. 3. Gregory Ricks of Texas is a “domainer,” which means he buys domain names he believes will generate high traffic, for the purpose of either redirecting traffic to business partners or selling them. One of his domains is datecheck.com. He is suing DCAEV Inc., a Nevada company that owns date-check.com and the registered service mark DATE CHECK.

According to the article, DCAEV Inc. uses date-check.com to promote escort services in Las Vegas and other cities. The complaint in Ricks’ lawsuit alleges that this is a “well-recognized guise for illegal prostitution services.” Ricks alleges that he bought datecheck.com in 1999, believing it was a generic combination of words not being used by any commercial interest. Since 2001, he says, he has used it continuously to promote the Web sites of other businesses. However, he alleges, when DCAEV discovered that Ricks owned datecheck.com, it began in June 2008 to look for ways to “hijack” the domain name rather than buy it. This effort included an application in the same month to register DATE CHECK as a service mark, which was successful. In July of 2009, DCAEV sent Ricks a cease-and-desist letter threatening a trademark infringement, unfair competition and cybersquatting lawsuit.

Ricks responded with a lawsuit of his own. In his case, filed in Nevada federal district court, he claims that he was using datecheck.com in commerce before DCAEV, and that because of the different nature of their businesses, there is no likelihood of consumer confusion between his site and DCAEV’s site. He seeks a declaratory judgment saying his use of the site does not infringe DCAEV’s trademark or constitute “cybersquatting.” In another count, he also alleges that DCAEV’s service mark application falsely represented that it didn’t know of anyone else using the proposed mark in commerce, harming Ricks. He seeks cancellation of the service mark, unspecified damages, attorney fees and costs.

Unfortunately, DCAEV had no comment for the article. But as Illinois online trademark infringement lawyers, we will be interested in the outcome of this case. Under federal law, businesses and individuals may petition to cancel registration of a mark that they believe harms them, or when the registrant does not have legitimate control over a certification mark. We only have one side of the story, but if the allegations raised by Ricks are true, they imply that DCAEV registered a service mark with the intention of using it to force Ricks to give up datecheck.com through litigation. Lubin Austermuehle vigorously defends clients caught in this type of hostile trademark litigation.

Lubin Austermuehle is a full-service business litigation law firm. We have an active practice in Internet trademark litigation, including representing both plaintiffs and defendants in trademark infringement claims. Our Wheaton, Joliet and Chicago, Illinois online trademark litigation attorneys and Wheaton trial lawyers also handle related claims of product disparagement or trade libel, both on- and offline. Based in Chicago and Oak Brook, Ill., we represent clients throughout the United States and the Midwest. If your business is under fire and you’re ready to learn more about your rights, please contact us online or call 1-866-990-4990 to set up a consultation.

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