Every time ICANN adds more top-level domains, corporations are forced to scramble to register their trademarks on the new domains before cyber-squatters snap them up. Like other famous brands, Facebook has suffered domain squatting problems numerous times in the past.
But it’s hard to fathom why the domain name squatters actually bother, considering that intellectual property laws nearly always force them to relinquish ownership.
In the latest case in the World Intellectual Property Forum, Domain Name Wire reports that Facebook has won the rights to facebook.me. The domain was registered on GoDaddy by Amjad Abbas of the United Arab Emirates in 2008. He apparently bought the Facebook.me domain name in the landrush period for .me – the country-level domain for Montenegro – for $5,115.
Facebook has wasted no time implementing its new rights – the Facebook.me domain is already diverting to Facebook.com.
Abbas reportedly told the Registrar that he would not sell it or transfer it or forward it to an improper site, or otherwise use it in bad faith. He argued he was not doing anything wrong with the domain name and pointed out that the Facebook name was not a registered trademark, or even particularly popular, in either the U.A.E. or Montenegro in August 2008 when he registered the domain.
Abbas said one of his ideas was to point the domain to his personal Facebook page, so that he would have “the most unique personal Facebook page URL in the world!! … hence I communicate to all my friends that my Facebook page is ‘www.FaceBook.me’!! They will not believe it, until they try it. Wow, that would be great.” He said he enjoyed collecting domain names, especially unique ones, to achieve “joy and satisfaction with my ‘IT/Internet’ friends here”.
However, Facebook claimed that Abbas had listed the domain name for sale for a minimum of $2,000, along with altagoogle.com, oracle.me and trump.me.
The lengthy written decision, made by a single panelist rather than the usual three at Facebook’s request, rules that it was a “bad faith” registration on the part of Abbas and he likely intended to sell the domain at a profit to Facebook. The ruling says the fame of the Facebook name meant there was “no plausible alternative explanation” for the respondent to acquire the domain, since the domain could not be legally used without misleading consumers.
“His explanation that he acquired the domain name (and other equally famous [trademark].me domain names) at considerable expense just to impress his friends is implausible, and in any event would not have required him to advertise the domain names for sale at a starting figure of $2,000,” the ruling says. “The respondent [Abbas] may have paid a little over $US5,000 for the domain name, but would no doubt have figured that it would be worth significantly more than that to the complainant [Facebook] to acquire the domain name.”
One also has to wonder whether or not the new Facebook.me will be used to make a service which competes with Google’s soon to be released “Facebook killer“, or if this is nothing more than a simple domain legal dispute.