GoDaddy Is a No Go in Cybersquatting Suit
(CN) - GoDaddy.com need not face claims from an energy company over a website with a name similar to its own that redirected to porn, the 9th Circuit ruled Wednesday.
Petrolium Nasional Berhad, the Malaysian-government-owned oil giant known as Petronas, maintains a web presence with its official website petronas.com.my and with several mirror sites such as petronas.com.
In a 2009 lawsuit against GoDaddy, it complained that the world's largest domain registrar was hosting two infringing websites, PetronasTower.net and PetronasTowers.net, that redirected visitors to "highly offensive, obscene and pornographic material" at the adult website camfunchat.com.
Petronas sued for contributory cybersquatting under the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act (ACPA).
Though officials from the Malaysian and U.S. governments had contacted GoDaddy about the issue, the company refused to do anything because, among other things, it was not the host of the site.
U.S. District Judge Phyllis Hamilton rejected Petronas' claims in full, and the 9th Circuit unanimously affirmed on Wednesday.
The three-judge appellate panel found that there is no cause of action for contributory cybersquatting under the ACPA, and that if there were, the law would likely turn untenable.
"Extending liability to registrars or other third parties who are not cybersquatters, but whose actions may have the effect of aiding such cybersquatting, would expand the range of conduct prohibited by the statute from a bad faith intent to cybersquat on a trademark to the mere maintenance of a domain name by a registrar, with or without a bad faith intent to profit," Judge Milan Smith wrote for the panel.
"Limiting claims under the Act to direct liability is also consistent with the ACPA's goal of ensuring that trademark holders can acquire and use domain names without having to pay ransom money to cybersquatters," he added. "Because direct cybersquatting requires subjective bad faith, focusing on direct liability also spares neutral third party service providers from having to divine the intent of their customers."
The panel noted that there are myriad legal remedies against cybersquatting, including "traditional" trademark claims, so that "contributory liability" is unnecessary.