Google has won another Internet trade secret legal battle. The online giant was embroiled in a legal tussle with both GoDaddy and The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (a.k.a., the “Oscars” people). To be clear, neither GoDaddy nor AMPAS sued Google; instead, AMPAS filed a claim against GoDaddy over a cybersquatting/online intellectual property issue. Unexpectedly, the case ended up having a significant impact on Internet trade secret law.
Internet Trade Secret Showdown: The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences v. GoDaddy
You’ve probably seen GoDaddy “parked” sites before; they feature the infamous logo and ads. What you may not know, though, is that domain owners, who are enrolled in GoDaddy’s “CashParking” program, earn revenues off those ads. As such, domain parking has become a popular residual income stream for online marketers. Here’s the story of one.
The Story Of The Online Marketer Who Bought An “Oscar-Baity” URL?
To capitalize on online searches related to the annual Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Award Gala (a.k.a., “The Oscars”), one enterprising online marketer bought “oscarlist.com” and “oscarliveblogging.com.” During the Academy Awards seasons, owning those domains translated to significant residual revenues, via parked domain profits.
The Academy Doesn’t Like That Go Daddy “Profits” Off Their Name
When The Academy found out about the system, it wasn’t thrilled. The Oscar folks felt that the hosting company unfairly infringed on their online intellectual property rights by profiting off “parked” sites.
So how did Google get involved? Both GoDaddy and AMPAS were pointing fingers, saying that Google’s AdSense program is the real issue. AMPAS said it need to examine Google’s program to see if the company took precautions against intellectual property infringement, in addition to the revenue share calculations. GoDaddy, on the other hand, is tried to build an Anti-Cybersquatting Protection Act defense, arguing that Google is “solely responsible” for any inappropriate domain profit gain.
Despite the wishes of AMPAS and GoDaddy, Paul Grewal – a U.S. magistrate judge – ruled the Google discovery requests would be “burdensome” since the company routinely has to deal with third-party discovery demands. Specifically, the judge reasoned:
“AMPAS has not shown that the 4,000 pages of documents Google already produced does not provide the information it needs or why at least some of the additional discovery it wants was not obtained from GoDaddy or public sources.”
Bad Faith Intent To Profit In Cybersquatting Lawsuit
The crux of the AMPAS v. GoDaddy lawsuit is whether or not GoDaddy engaged in a program with a “bad faith intent to profit.” In online intellectual property cases, it’s usually not enough to say that someone is inappropriately using a questionable domain (though, there are exceptions). Plaintiffs in such cases need to prove that the defendant is somehow profiting off the alleged infringement.
There are many ways an attorney can argue profit loss, or potential profit loss, so it’s important to find a lawyer who has experience with Internet copyright litigation and Internet trade secret law.