Follow up to Domain Name Wire story about Chicago2016.com.
The battle over Chicago2016.com is turning into an olympic-scale battle. Stephen Frayne Jr., who owns Chicago2016.com, has filed a lawsuit to keep the domain name that is currently pending a UDRP decision at WIPO.
As noted in Domain Name Wire’s previous article, Chicago 2016’s United States Olympic Committee (USOC) uses Chicago2016.org as its web site.
In the lawsuit, Frayne argues USOC is violating his first amendment rights, as he plans to use the domain name as an open forum to discuss the merits of bringing the olympics to Chicago. Frayne is also seeking attorney’s fees. The lawsuit also names Domain Trade, Inc., a Japan company that has threatened UDRP action over the domain Tokyo2016.com. Domain Name Wire has obtained a copy of the lawsuit, which can be viewed here (pdf).
USOC had attempted to acquire the domain name from Frayne before filing the UDRP. According to the lawsuit:
On or about November 14, 2007, Frayne met with Mr. Stiers [of USOC] alone at Chicago 2016’s offices and Frayne informed Mr. Stiers that he was interested in hosting an online public debate about the interests of the citizens of Chicago who are not getting the full story out to the public on the Chicago bid. In other words, Frayne informed Mr. Stiers that not only was his domain name not for sale, but that he planned to use this website as a public forum to allow for criticism, as well as support, of the Chicago bid that may not have otherwise been widely recognized in the local media up to this point.
26. At this point, Mr. Stiers asked if Frayne was aware that Chicago 2016 had acquired a trademark on Chicago 2016 and Frayne acknowledged that he was aware of that fact.
Mr. Stiers told Frayne that chicago2016.org was receiving about 1,000-2,000 visitors per day with spikes around major news coverage and asked Frayne what his traffic was at chicago2016.com. At that time, Frayne did not have the tracking code installed so he had no idea what kind of traffic he was getting. Mr. Stiers asked Frayne repeatedly (at least 4 times) to discuss prices at which Frayne would part with the name. Upon information and belief Mr. Stiers knew that if Frayne offered to sell his website, then Mr. Stiers could then proceed against Frayne before a WIPO Panel or in federal court to show that Frayne had engaged in bad faith. These repeated attempts to lure Frayne into offering to sell his website represent a bad faith attempt by Chicago 2016 to hijack Frayne’s domain name. Regardless, time and again Frayne told Mr. Stiers very politely but plainly that he was not interested in selling his domain name.
In his lawsuit, Frayne also noted that USOC hasn’t gone after Chicago2016.NET, a pro-USOC web site.
A Chicago Tribune story today quotes a USOC representative explaining why he thinks it should get control of the domain:
“We certainly see Chicago2016.com as the logical default domain for our site, and we believe having someone else control it is misleading for people seeking information about Chicago’s bid,” said Patrick Sandusky, a spokesman for Chicago 2016, a m oniker protected by trademark…
Sandusky said he hadn’t seen the lawsuit, and so couldn’t comment on it. But he added, “I can tell you this is absolutely not about free speech, but about the natural domain for our site, and the domain name that is rightfully ours.”
The trademark was filed after the domain was registered.
“The Natural Domain Name For Our Site”. Give me a break. Hey, everybody is entitled to their own opinion, but not everybody is entitled to be correct. Only 1 person gets that privaledge, and I hope, after hearing that defense, that Mr. Stephen Frayne turns out to be the correct one.
Steve M says
Really; no different than an Olympic (oops–can I even say that since “Olympics” is TM’d?) runner who finished 2nd in his race…only to demand that he be moved to 1st place…since that’s “the natural position I’m entitled to.”
In early 1996, before I really knew much of anything about trademarks, I purchased OlympicHousing.com for the 96′ Atlanta Olympics. Only a couple months after registration I received a cease and desist letter from the Olympic committee. I then dropped the domain.
I’ve decided I’m going to frame that letter as it is the earliest cease and desist letter I have ever heard of on the Net. That is when I learned about trademarks, and I changed my ways. 🙂
They are pretty aggressive in enforcement. They tried to make a restaurant in Atlanta change its name from the “Olympic Restaurant”, which had been in business for 25 years at the time, and they were ruthless about it. I can’t remember which party prevailed.