On Thursday, social media giant Facebook, as well as its subsidiaries Instagram and WhatsApp (together referred to as Facebook), filed a complaint in the Middle District of Pennsylvania against defendant New Ventures Services, Corp. as well as some unknown individuals “as the agents of, and/or as the alter egos of New Ventures Services, Corp. (collectively, ‘NVSC’)” for the registration of at least 74 infringing domain names which the defendants purportedly profited from in bad faith.
According to the complaint, NVSC is “(s)eeking to take advantage of Plaintiffs’ goodwill and fame, and unwary internet users … (by) register(ing) at least 278 domain names that are identical or confusingly similar to Plaintiffs’ trademarks,” specifically the Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp trademarks. Facebook claimed that as of March 29, 2021, “NVSC owned at least 74 of these identical or confusingly similar domain names” (the Infringing Domain Names), such as facebbock.com, facebookbusinessleads.com, httpinstagram.com, instagram-login.com, installwhatsapps.com,, and whatsapp-help.com, among others. The plaintiffs alleged that the Infringing Domain Names “either incorporate Plaintiffs’ Trademarks or are confusingly similar misspellings of Plaintiffs’ Trademarks” or use the plaintiffs’ trademark next to a generic term like login or help.
Reportedly, “the ICANN-accredited registrars Network Solutions, LLC and Register.com, Inc. cherry-picked many of the Infringing Domain Names prior to the registrations expiring and then transferred the Infringing Domain Names to NVSC – a related entity – before the Infringing Domain Names became publicly-available for registration.” The plaintiffs averred that NVSC uses the domain names “to trick unsuspecting Internet users into visiting the websites at the Infringing Domain Names *the ‘Associated Websites’).”
According to the complaint, “(t)he majority of the Associated Websites are ‘pay-per-click’ websites from which NVSC generates revenue from Internet traffic.” Additionally, the plaintiffs claimed that some of the Associated Websites were “flagged for suspected phishing and other nefarious website activities.” Moreover, Facebook contended that NVSC profits from the fame of the plaintiffs’ trademarks that the Infringing Domain Names are based on by “offering to sell these Infringing Domain Names, and, on information and belief, often soliciting the former registrants of the Infringing Domain Names to pay extortionate prices to buy back the Infringing Domain Names. The defendants also allegedly traffic in the Infringing Domain Names by “offering 67 of the 74 Infringing Domain Names for sale.” However, these domain names are purportedly for sale at prices much more than the cost of the registration. Thus, the plaintiffs claimed that NVSC uses the domain names with a bad faith intent to profit from the plaintiffs’ trademarks.
Facebook claimed that the defendants have performed this type of conduct before and they purportedly have a history of “working in active concert with related entities in order to profit in bad faith from the registration, trafficking in, and use of trademark-based domain names.”
The counts against the defendants are a violation of the Anti-Cybersquatting Consumer Protection Act, federal trademark and service mark infringement, federal trademark and service mark infringement and false designation of origin, and federal trademark dilution of the Facebook Trademarks and Instagram trademarks.
The plaintiffs seek a declaratory judgment in their favor, a permanent injunction, for the defendants to transfer the Infringing Domain Names to the plaintiffs, an award for damages, disgorgement for all unjust enrichment, pre- and post-judgment interest, an award for costs and fees, and other relief.