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Tuesday, February 27, 2024
Courthouse News Service
Tuesday, February 27, 2024 | Back issues
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Olympic Committees|Go After Cybersquatter

HOUSTON (CN) - The International Olympic Committee sued a businessman on trademark charges, claiming he's stockpiled more than 1,000 domain names of potential Olympic host cities and years to raise money.

The IOC and the U.S. Olympic Committee sued Stephen P. Frayne Jr. and his company CityPure LLC on Thursday in Federal Court.

Frayne has acquired nearly 1,500 domain names of cities in the running to host Summer Olympics, and the years, such as Rome2024.com, Paris2024.com and LosAngeles2024.com, the IOC says. It claims Frayne has been snatching up these Web addresses for years.

The USOC in 2008 tried to recover Chicago2016.com from Frayne in a proceeding before the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, which works out disputes over domain names that are identical or similar to trademarks.

In response, Frayne showed the USOC he's not afraid to play hardball.

"Frayne filed a complaint in the District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, averring that he acquired the domain name solely to establish a bona fide noncommercial forum for an 'open and honest discussion' about the Olympic Games," the complaint states.

The USOC says that because Frayne professed under oath an innocent goal of providing a place to talk about the Olympics, it believed him, and settled the lawsuit in 2009.

The IOC ran up against Frayne in 2014 when it tried to buy Tokyo2020.com for that city's Olympics bid organizing committee.

"Its efforts were blocked by defendants' prior registration of that domain name," the complaint states. "The IOC then discovered a videotaped pitch defendant Frayne made to potential investors at the Rice University's Technology Venture Forum."

The committees claim that Frayne's presentation proves he's not a budding benevolent Olympic moderator; he's in it for the money.

The lawsuit includes as an exhibit a transcript of Frayne's talk at Rice University. It begins: "My name is Steve Frayne and I am the founder and president of City Pure. We make money by monetizing the world-wide tremendous interest in the Olympics every four years."

Frayne then tells the audience that Beijing2008 was the most viewed nonsearch engine website after Facebook during the games' 17 days, according to the 1-page transcript.

Frayne continued: "And people went to ... that site for numerous reasons, right: to find scores and information, to find local services, to find brokerage for housing because hotels can't accommodate the over one million visitors, they are looking for ticket brokerage; all sorts of things like that.

"We provide all those sorts of services. We've raised 455,000 dollars so far from three angels. In the coming round we're looking to raise 300,000 dollars more."

The Olympic overlords want treble damages for violations of the Olympic and Amateur Sports Act, the Anti-cybersquatting Consumer Protection Act and unfair competition and trademark infringement under the Lanham Act.

They also want Frayne ordered to transfer all the infringing domain names to the IOC, and an injunction to stop him and City Pure from registering domain names with city names and even-numbered years.

They are represented by Rodney Caldwell with Pirkey Barber in Austin.

Robert Grabemann and Timothy Schaum, the Chicago attorneys listed on the docket as Frayne's counsel in his 2008 lawsuit against the USOC, did not immediately respond to phone and email messages asking if they still represent him.

The next two Summer Olympic host cities are Rio de Janeiro in 2016 and Tokyo in 2020. The 2024 host will be announced in 2017. The candidates are Rome, Paris, Hamburg, Budapest and Los Angeles.

Follow @cam_langford
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