Online Auction House Steps Up Battle With Augusta National

(CN) – The Augusta National Golf Club wants to shut down the website of a Florida-based auction house in an ongoing fight over the club’s iconic green jackets.

According to a federal lawsuit filed in Tampa on Tuesday by Green Jacket Auctions, an online seller of golf memorabilia, Augusta National is trying to “hijack” the auction house’s domain name – — by asserting a trademark claim.

Augusta National’s iconic green sport jacket, emblazoned with its logo,  are given to members of the club and winners of the annual Masters tournament.

Tuesday’s lawsuit is the latest row between the host of the Masters Tournament and the online auction house based in Tampa. Last summer, Augusta National Inc., the company that owns the club and tournament, sued Green Jacket Auctions to prevent the sale of three jackets and other items with the club’s logo. Augusta National won a temporary injunction on the sale.

The golf club then went after the auction house’s domain name through a dispute process governed by the nonprofit Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers. Green Jacket Auctions registered the domain after forming in 2006. At the time, Augusta National did not have a trademark on “green jacket.” (It registered the mark in 2012.)

Last month, an administrative panel ordered the transfer of the domain name from Green Jacket Auctions to Augusta National. The auction house’s current lawsuit seeks to stop that transfer and prove their “generic” trademark does not create confusion or lead people away from the world-famous golf club.

“Augusta National is going to great lengths to shut down our successful business,” said Green Jacket Auctions president Ryan Carey said via e-mail. “There are over 100 domains that incorporate the phrase ‘green jacket,’ yet Augusta National singled out our domain.”

“This is yet another example of a powerful organization attempting to bully a smaller business and legitimate registrant into giving up a domain name that was legally acquired in good faith,” he continued, adding the club’s claim on green jackets is equivalent to the New York Yankees trying to lay claim to pinstripe jerseys.

Augusta National’s director of communications did not respond to a phone call and email seeking comment.

Green Jacket Auctions has sold millions of dollars worth of golf memorabilia over the last 12 years, including 13 green jackets, according to its website. One of those green jackets belonged to the first Masters champion, Horton Smith, and fetched $682,000.

Augusta National Golf Club, on the other hand, is no fan of such auctions. Augusta National asserts the jackets are property of the club and should never leave the grounds except during a Masters tournament winner’s first year.

In 2013, the club sued a Texas-based auction house for selling a jacket won by Art Wall in the 1959 Masters tournament, claiming the memorabilia was stolen. The auction  house, Heritage Auctions, later agreed to return the jacket.

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