(CN) – So-called typosquatters that registered Internet domains an errant finger away from Facebook’s name infringed on the website’s trademark, a federal judge ruled.
Facebook had sued eight companies – including Cleanser Products, Counter Balance Enterprises and Intercontinental Domain – and four individuals for trademark infringement and breach of the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act (ACPA), in 2011.
The social networking giant sought injunctive relief that would give it control over numerous domain names that allegedly infringed on its marks, established in 2004.
Looking at the 11 defendants that failed to formally appear in the action, U.S. District Judge Kandis Westmore recommended Wednesday that they turn over more than 100 domains and pay $2.8 million in damages.
Typosquatters, which alter the spelling of common websites and register their results, intentionally divert traffic away from the Internet user’s intended target.
“Each of the default defendants registered at least one Internet domain name that includes or misspells the Facebook domain, facebook.com, or – in the case of Cleanser Products – owned and operated websites to which Internet users were redirected when they visited infringing domain names,” according to the 37-page filing, levied in Oakland, Calif.
“Some owners of the infringing domain names worked with Cleanser Products to divert Internet users who were attempting to log-on to Facebook, but who accidentally misspelled the domain, to instead reach deceptive, typosquatting sites, which then redirected users to a landing website that looked like Facebook, but was owned by Cleanser Products.”
Counter Balance allegedly registered and used two domains: facebobk.com and facemook.com.
Intercontinental Domain allegedly held 10 domains – eacebook.com, faceboko.com, facebooj.com, facvebook.com, fadebook.com, faxebook.com, fqacebook.com, fqcebook.com, lfacebook.com and rfacebook.com.
“Domain names may be confusingly similar to a protected mark if they incorporate the mark or if they add, delete, or rearrange letters in the mark,” Westmore said, citing Shields v. Zuccarini.
“Here, each of Counter Balance’s domain names differs from the Facebook mark by a single letter,” she added. “Counter Balance’s domain names are therefore confusingly similar under the ACPA.”
Westmore also found that “Intercontinental acted with a bad-faith intent to profit from the Facebook mark, by registering and using infringing domain names to divert traffic from Facebook’s website in an effort to deceive users and make money.”
Cleanser Products operated “landing pages” to which the owners of the infringing domains would divert traffic, the filing states.
The pages – socialrewardsurvey.com, socialrewardcenter.com, socialrewardpanel.com, socialsurvey2011.com and social.worldrewardcenter.com – allegedly resembled Facebook’s website and were built to profit off the typosquatting schemes.
Cleanser Products “monetized the redirected traffic from the direct infringers’ domains by encouraging visitors to divulge personal information, view and click on advertisements, and purchase products on its landing websites,” Westmore wrote.
“While all default defendants acted in bad faith by intentionally diverting consumers from Facebook, their conduct differs in terms of degree of maliciousness and wrongdoing,” she added.
Typosquatters, or URL hijackers, that registered between one and nine domains must pay $5,000 per site, Westmore ruled. The fine increases to $10,000 per site for defendants operating 10 to 19 domains; $15,000 per site for 20 to 29 domains; $20,000 for 30 to 39 domains; and, $25,000 for 40 to 49 domains.
The decision notes that it does not cover the claims against the 12th defendant, Michael Navarini dba Banana Ads, which appeared at the hearing on Facebook’s motion for default judgment.