Billionaire entrepreneur bought domain name to troll University of Michigan fans.
Billionaire entrepreneur Mark Cuban has lost the domain name GoBlue.com to The Regents of The University of Michigan in a cybersquatting dispute.
Cuban registered the domain name ahead of this year’s game between University of Michigan and Indiana University, the school that Cuban attended. Ahead of the October 8 game, Cuban posted a video stating:
You guys know I am a huge IU fan; an IU grad. Go IU. Beat Michigan. But I’m also a business guy. And I got the chance to buy this website GoBlue.Com. And I just had to do things for Michigan fans that I didn’t think I’d ever do, but to all you Michigan fans – and even you IU fans – check out GoBlue.Com. I think you’re going to love what you see.
He forwarded the domain name to Indiana University’s online store.
The University of Michigan filed a complaint with National Arbitration Forum, claiming that Cuban is cybersquatting. The Forum’s panel agreed.
Cuban’ representative argued that his registration of the domain was protected free speech. But the three-person panel wrote:
Respondent claims that the Disputed Domain Name was acquired as a joke to tease Complainant and its team’s supporters. The Panel accepts that the Disputed Domain Name may have been purchased as a joke at Complainant’s expense. However, the record shows that Respondent did not intend to solely make an inoffensive joke on a game night. Indeed, for two months since, the Disputed Domain Name has been resolving to the website https://indiana.nil.store/ which offers for sale a competing university’s goods. Although Respondent himself, the registrant, may not be a competitor of Complainant, Indiana University is a competitor, as it offers similar education services to Complainant and has a football team that competes against Complainant’s. Moreover, Complainant alleges that Mr. Cuban has economic interests in the NIL store, which Respondent does not refute.
The panel stated that if it was a joke, Cuban should have offered to transfer the domain after the game. (It seems that the panel thought the acquisition was related specifically to this game, rather than general trolling of the rivalry between the schools.)
In finding bad faith, it wrote:
Respondent claims that the redirection to the NIL store was solely a joke, related to a friendly rivalry between the Parties. Yet, Respondent states that Mr. Cuban is a wealthy business entrepreneur. As such, he was certainly aware that Internet users are constituted by a myriad of different people, not all familiar with US college sports. Hence, at least part of Internet users looking for Complainant’s products and landing on the Disputed Domain Name could be confused as to the origin of the goods on the Disputed Domain Name. Indeed, foreign Internet users looking to purchase college sports products, without supporting a specific team, could believe there is a connection between Complainant and the website in question.
While I understand the general point, it’s unclear why someone not looking for a specific team’s merchandise would go to a domain name clearly tied to a specific team.
I’m also bit confused by another conclusion the panel came to:
Respondent registered the Disputed Domain Name precisely because it was connected to Complainant’s trademarks and in order to configure a redirection to the online store of a competitor. Besides, Respondent argues that the Disputed Domain Name is costly. Therefore, it seems strange that the latter has chosen such domain name for a simple joke.
This seems to contradict the statement about a “wealthy business entrepreneur.” To Cuban, the cost was surely a drop in the bucket, lending credence to it being a simple joke.
The domain will be transferred within 10 days of the decision unless Cuban files a lawsuit.