A recap of the legal panel at NamesCon.
A legal panel is a mainstay at domain name conferences. Earlier this month at NamesCon was no different.
Perhaps trying to jazz up a panel full of lawyers, the session was titled “Dude, Seriously?!?? What Were You Thinking?!?” (which looks a lot like the click grabbing headlines on Weather.com).
But seriously, it was a good session. Each person gave a story about someone who fought a fight they shouldn’t have or did something crazy. It sure beats boring UDRP stories.
Here’s a rundown.
Ari recounted a story about a guy named Ryan who really wanted to buy the domain Ryan.com from Ari. But they were very far apart on price.
At the same time, Ari hadn’t secured AriGoldberger.com. So the guy Ryan registered it and put pictures of three obese naked women on it. Ari eventually got the domain name from him (without giving up Ryan.com).
Ari then recounted the story of fighting Esquire over ESQwire.com. You can read more about that here.
Next up was Bret Fausett, whose first story also involved domain attorney John Berryhill. He told the story of someone who got greedy, tried to back out of a domain sale, and ended up losing a lot of money because of it.
One of Berryhill’s clients agreed to buy a domain name for $200k. While the transaction was in escrow, the seller got a better offer and tried to back out of the deal. Per the escrow terms, the case went to arbitration. Fausett served as California counsel for the would-be buyer. The domain seller ended up having to pay the arbitration fee, John’s and Bret’s fees, as well as his own lawyers fees. Bret said he ended up getting around $100k after fees for the domain when everything was said and done, rather than the $200k of the original deal. The message: once you’re in escrow, you’ve sold the domain.
Fausett also told the story of domain registrar LeadNetworks in Mumbai. LeadNetworks thought it found a great way to hold on to cybersquatted domain names. In India litigation takes forever. So whenever someone filed a UDRP against a domain LeadNetworks was holding, they’d just file suit in court in India. This would tie the domain up and the complainant would never get the domain.
But Bret pointed out that you’re never out of the reach of laws elsewhere in the world. When attorney David Steele went after some Verizon domain names, he wasn’t going to get stuck in court in India. He sued LeadNetworks in the central district of California, arguing that’s where Lead Networks got its registrar accreditation (since ICANN is there). The registrar was seized, and Bret was the court appointed receiver who had to wind things down and get domain names to their rightful owners.
John said he gets a call just about every day from someone who received a cease & desist letter. The person who called said they already took down the content on the domain name because the letter told them to do so.
John said people tend to get scared when they receive a cease & desist letter. A lot of attorneys write things in C&D letters that simply aren’t true. Don’t just follow the request in the letter.
Former prosecutor Albert Angel was involved with a case that lead to the first ever criminal conviction for domain theft. But he wasn’t a lawyer in the case – he was a victim.
Angel bought the domain name P2P.com with fellow domain investor Marc Ostrofsky for $160,000. The domain was later stolen and sold to an NBA basketball player. The details of the case have already been extensively written about – so I’ll point you to Domain Name News rather than rehash the details here.
Chicago attorney Daliah Saper recounted the story of a client who was involved in a three year long lawsuit as a result of not transferring a domain name for three days.
Her client was a web development firm. They did work for a homebuilder, and her client registered a domain for the homebuilder (but in their account, not the homebuilder’s name). The two companies had a disagreement and the homebuilder decided to stop using the web development company. Since the homebuilder didn’t want to pay the outstanding invoices, the web development firm held on to the domain. After three days her client relented and handed over the domain – but then the homebuilder sued anyway. What resulted was a long and expensive legal battle that her client won. But it all started with a three day delay.