Federal District Court Denies Motion to Dismiss Contributory Cybersquatting and Contributory Dilution Claims
By Elina Saviharju – Edited by Jonathan Allred
Microsoft Corp. v. Shah, et al., No. C10-0653 (W.D. Wash. Jan. 12, 2011)
Slip opinion hosted by WSJ.com
The U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington denied defendants’ motion to dismiss plaintiff Microsoft’s claims for contributory cybersquatting and contributory dilution as unrecognized by law.
Cybersquatting is the practice of registering a domain name similar to a well-known trademark in order to profit from confusion with the mark, or by holding the domain name out for sale to the trademark owner, and is prohibited by the Anti-Cybersquatting Consumer Protection Act (“ACPA”), 15 U.S.C. § 1125(d). In this case, the District Court held that ACPA should be interpreted so as to allow claims for contributory cybersquatting in addition to direct cybersquatting, although the cause of action has not been explicitly permitted by an appellate court or by statute. The court noted that the defendants’ conduct runs counter to the purpose of ACPA and that “it is a well-established canon of statutory construction that a court should go beyond the literal language of a statute if reliance on that language would defeat the plain purpose of the statute.” Microsoft at 7 (quoting Bob Jones Univ. v. United States, 461 U.S. 574, 586 (1983)).
The Trademark Dilution Act prohibits dilution by blurring or by tarnishment of a famous mark. 15 U.S.C. § 1125(c). As with contributory cybersquatting, contributory trademark dilution had never been directly addressed by a court or by statute. Even so, the District Court held that prohibiting such cause of action would be inconsistent with the Trademark Dilution Act, which seeks to protect against exactly the kind of harm allegedly caused by the defendants.