Court determines it can’t issue default judgment in John Doe suit.
A lawsuit filed to recover the allegedly stolen domain name Rat.com has hit a snag in Fairfax County court.
Jon Beutler registered rat.com in 1995. He alleges that the domain name was stolen from his GoDaddy account last year and transferred to another registrar.
I see lots of lawsuits filed in Virginia because Verisign is located there. But most of these are in rem suits filed against the domain names in Federal District Court that allege cybersquatting.
Instead, Beutler’s lawsuit was filed in a circuit court for conversion and tortious interference, and against John Doe rather than the domain name.
The court determined (pdf) that it can’t issue a default judgment against a John Doe in a domain name case, that you can’t serve a John Doe defendant by publication in Virginia, and that Verisign would have to be a party to the suit if the court were to order the domain name transferred.
It seems to me like the most common way to try to recover a domain name like this is to claim trademark rights and file it in rem. I’m not sure why the plaintiffs took a different approach in this case.