Limo Company Defends Its Domain Name

Posted on August 18, 2004 by LCT Staff - Also by this author - About the author

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – A simple misspelling, or confusion over a company’s exact name, can send a potential client on a goose chase all over the Internet, sending them to Web addresses across the country, or even worse, into the arms of a competitor.

Eric Weiner, owner of luxury transportation service provider All Occasion Transportation in Providence, has operated his company’s Web site at www.alloccasionlimo.com, for the past seven years. A few weeks ago, he began getting calls from a number of clients and customers, telling him they were being directed to a rival’s business 20 miles away in Massachusetts when they misspelled the word “occasion” as “occasion.”

Weiner said his lawyers are in the process of reviewing legal options and have already sent a cease and desist letter to the competitor.

“A fair amount of business is conducted through our Web site,” Weiner said. “People who don’t use us regularly or are looking for us for the first time probably aren’t even realizing where they end up. It’s certainly what I consider, in my opinion, to be an unfair business practice.”

John Lennon, owner of Emerald Square Limousine in Plainville, Mass., declined to comment for this story. Lennon’s www.emeraldsquarelimo.com and www.alloccassionlimo.com addresses direct a Web surfer to the same home page.

Weiner, whose company also does business under the name Providence Limousine, recently registered several more variations on the domain names he already owns in the hopes of making it harder for his customers to be misdirected.

“Right now, we’re just trying to raise public awareness,” said Weiner, who included a short item about the effects of a misspelled Web address in a recent e-mailing to 6,000 of his clients. “I’m spreading the word that ‘occasion’ is with one ‘s,’ not two.”

Leonard Katzman, an attorney with Providence’s Partridge Snow & Hahn, specializes in intellectual property law. “These things happen all the time,” he said.

The Internet Corporation For Assigned Names and Numbers, a private group responsible for administering certain Internet technical parameters, adopted the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy in 1999. An alternative to litigation in local courts to settle complaints by trademark owners about cybersquatting, the policy defined “bad faith registration and use” of domain names, while identifying situations that could be considered defenses in a trademark complaint.

Policy cases are decided by individual panelists and proceedings are binding on all Web site name holders. Winning a complaint can mean the cancellation or transfer of domain registration.

In the five years since the domain resolution policy has existed, Katzman said there’s been quite a bit of activity as thousands and thousands of cases have been filed. He estimated that about two-thirds of the complaint actions are successful, in that the majority of sites facing action never respond to the original complaint.

Katzman said the main criteria for a successful case are that a company has trademark rights in the name, the offending Web address has been created in bad faith and that the two domain names are confusingly similar.

Katzman said a good deal of overlap remains between trademark and domain-name laws and matters generally come down to the question of good faith.

“While companies like limo services are local, the Internet is global,” Katzman said. “For a lot of businesses, it comes down to corporate interests and what you’re willing to spend in time and money defending your rights to an address or a name.”

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