Facebook Sues Domain Names for Cybersquatting

On June 8, Facebook Inc. filed an in rem trademark complaint against several domain names, including facebook-verify-inc.com. Facebook alleged the defendant domain names “have been registered, trafficked in and/or used with a bad faith intent to profit from Plaintiffs’ trademarks in violation of the [Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act (ACPA)].” The case is being held in the Eastern District of Virginia before Judge Rossie D. Alston Jr. Instagram, LLC, and WhatsApp, LLC are also named as plaintiffs.

The complaint alleged that the plaintiff’s trademarks were infringed by each domain. “Each of the Defendant Domain Names is identical or confusingly similar to Plaintiffs’ FB Intellectual Property,” writes the complaint. It claims that the domain names combine Facebook’s intellectual property with “with generic, descriptive, or other non-distinctive words,” making it impossible to distinguish the defendants from the plaintiff’s trademarks. Provided as evidence are 12 exhibits, each one containing domain data, and registrant and administrative contact information.

The <facebook-verify-inc.com> domain name is accused of combining the Facebook marks with “verify-inc.,” which according to the complaint, “misleads consumers into the mistaken belief the domain name registration is associated with verification of a Facebook account, and is otherwise insufficient to materially distinguish it from the Facebook Marks.” The other domain names face similar accusations since they strongly resemble Facebook’s marks. WhatsApp and Instagram’s trademarks are also alleged to have been infringed by domain names like <videocall-whatsapp.com> and <instagramhjack.com>, among others.

As a result of the alleged trademark infringements, Facebook seeks orders requiring the defendants to transfer their domain names to the company’s “domain name registrar of choice” to eventually be transferred to Facebook itself. The plaintiffs are represented by Dickinson Wright.