The country of Libya lost a cybersquatting lawsuit against Ahmad Miski. In November 2006, the Embassy of Libya filed a lawsuit with the United States District Court against Ahmad Miski for online trademark violations. Their position was that Miski violated the Anti-Cybersquatting Consumer Protection Act when he created a series of domain names, including embassyoflibya.org, libyaembassy.org, libyaembassy.com and libyanembassy.com.
Miski owns an Arab-American Chamber of Commerce that helps people get documents certified – a service not offered by the Arab Embassy. Miski employs a common Internet marketing tactic; he registers domain names and redirects users to his website called arabchamber.com – a practice, he says, that significantly increased his website’s Internet search rankings.
According to the Anti-Cybersquatting Consumer Protection Act, the trademark owner has to prove they posses a lawful trademark. In this case, the Embassy of Libya had to prove that the defendant unlawfully used a name with the intent to profit. Although they had no registered trademark, the Libyan Embassy used the Lanham Act to dispute the matter. The Lanham Act states that some unregistered trademarks are protected by the Anti-Cybersquatting Consumer Protection Act.
After the bench trial, the verdict was in favor of Ahmad Miski. The court decided the Libyan Embassy had no trademark rights when it came to the domain names in question. Libya was unable to prove that the Lanham Act should protect their trademark. Since people think of a physical location when they hear about the Embassy of Libya, it is not considered a brand or product. Plus, their consular services are different from Miski’s certification services. In the end, the court ruled that none of Miski’s domain names violated the Anti-Cybersquatting Consumer Protection Act.
As Miski’s lawyer explained, his choice of domain names did not infringe on anyone’s rights. Miski only uses the descriptive domain names as an effective marketing tool. It is an embassy’s job to legalize documents. While Miski is unable to legalize documents, he uses third party businesses to have documents legalized by embassies across the Arab world. For that reason, the plaintiff is not a direct competitor of the defendant.
Full bench trials are rare in cybersquatting court cases; however, the lawsuit did make it to trial. The district court judge ruled in favor of the defendant. Since the Libyan Embassy failed to prove that it has trademark rights, Ahmad Miski gets to retain control of his domain names.