In the FreeView case, the company was hurt by its apparent similarity to so-called cybersquatters, who register domain names they think will be valuable to other companies and then try to sell them at big profits. Ironically, the ruling makes FreeView a cybersquatter by forcing the firm to turn over the domain names in exchange for a 300% markup.
On Friday, the 9th Circuit Court upheld a trademark-infringement ruling against Dennis Toeppen, an Illinois man who registered the panavision.com domain name and then tried to sell it to motion picture camera maker Panavision International of Woodland Hills for $13,000.
Rob Dreben, a partner at Morgan, Lewis & Bokius in Washington and co-editor of the Intellectual Property and Technology Law Letter, said the judge may have decided the case differently if Avery Dennison had sued a person with the name "Avery" instead of Sumpton and his company.
"This defendant may have cybersquatted with some finesse, but the court considered him a cybersquatter nonetheless," Dreben said.
In other cases, cybersquatters have prevented some famous individuals from using their names as domain names. For example, johnfkennedyjr.com and oprahwinfrey.com have already been registered by other people. One domain name broker has put a $1-million price tag on billgates.com
"Perhaps I should be flattered that somebody imagines the name is worth so much, especially since my parents gave me the same name 42 years ago for free," the billionaire co-founder of Microsoft said.
Jennifer Oldham can be reached at email@example.com and Karen Kaplan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org