Further to my last blog on this subject, I think it may be useful to provide some details on one of the more challenging trademark issues we are currently dealing with, as it may shed some light on the legal complications of protecting the project brand.
Back in 2005 I noticed that the "www.dnn.com" domain name was not being actively used, and instead was redirecting to an "Aberdeen News" newspaper site. Further research revealed that the domain name was owned by well known media company, Knight Ridder Digital. I contacted Knight Ridder and was eventually routed to one of their internal IP attorneys who instructed me that they were not interested in giving up the rights to the domain name at that time.
I heard nothing about the domain name again, until a couple months ago when I received a couple of unsolicited telephone calls from a fellow from San Francisco indicating that he was the owner of dnn.com and wanted to know if we were interested in acquiring the name.
Research revealed that the dnn.com domain name had somehow changed hands in January 2008, and was currently in the possession of a domain name squatter. The squatter requested an outrageous sum of money for the domain name, and I responded that DNN Corp did not have the financial resources to entertain such a demand. The squatter indicated that another party in our ecosystem had expressed interest in the domain name, and it soon became apparent that he was attempting to leverage one party against another in order to try and generate the maximum profit.
After expressing our legal position regarding the DNN trademark to the squatter, his financial demands decreased somewhat, but still not to a level we could consider reasonable. And there was the undeniable feeling that the entire negotiation process was really nothing more a basic extortion tactic.
So rather than engage the squatter in any further dialog, we instead opted to enlist the services of a professional IP firm and filed a complaint to ICANN under the Uniform Domain-Name Dispute-Resolution Policy ( UDRP ). This policy is designed for situations which involve trademark-based domain-name disputes, typically where a complainant wishes to acquire the domain name rights for one of their trademarks.
The UDRP allows the complainant and respondent to present their legal arguments to an arbitration panel. As with any legal dispute, the truth may be absolute, but what really matters is how you present the facts in a clear and concise manner so that individuals who are responsible for rendering a decision can come to the correct conclusion. You only get two written opportunities to communicate the basis of your complaint and you absolutely must conform to the criteria detailed in the UDRP policy.
With our attorneys expert assistance, we have presented our case and the domain name squatter has had the opportunity to present his as well. We are hopeful that the panel will provide us with a favorable ruling in this matter, but it is truly out of our control at this point and there is always the chance that our complaint may be dismissed for any number of subjective reasons. Regardless, we felt that we absolutely needed to take action to protect the integrity of the brand and therefore, we were prepared to accept the substantial legal costs either way.
Once a ruling is handed down, the DNN community will be the first to know the outcome.