Trademark Law

Dell Serves up 'Domain Tasting' Suit With Novel Claim

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Computer maker Dell Inc. has filed a federal lawsuit that claims several companies violated counterfeiting laws by buying and selling Web addresses with misspellings of its name.

The lawsuit contends three companies that register domain names set up a network with Caribbean shell companies to use Web addresses with typos of the Dell name during a five-day free-trial period. As soon as one shell company returned the domain name, another would pick it up. The practice is known as “domain tasting.”

The Web sites profited from pay-per-click ads, often for Dell competitors, the suit claimed. It was filed in the Southern District of Florida in October and unsealed last week.

University of Miami law professor Michael Froomkin told the Washington Post that a counterfeiting claim for what is known as “typosquatting” appears to be novel.

“I am not aware of a single case which argues as this one does that typosquatting is effectively a counterfeit” of a trademarked product, he told the newspaper.

Damages for counterfeiting are substantially larger than those for violating cybersquatting laws. If a judge agrees that the companies violated counterfeiting law, the damages would be $1 million per violation. But Dell would be entitled to only $1,000 for each infringement of its domain name, with the amount capped at $100,000.

A hat tip to Blogonaut, which posted the story.

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