Summary judgment denied in a case of creative typosquatting

In the case of Lands’ End, Inc. v. Remy, the defendant website owners were accused of crafting a clever scheme to get some extra commissions from their affiliate relationship with landsend.com. It looks like the scheme has backfired, however, as Lands’ End’s claim against the defendants under the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act, [15 U.S.C. ยง1125(d)] (“ACPA”) has survived a summary judgment motion and the case is heading for trial.

Lands’ End operates an affiliate program that allows owners of approved websites to put up links to landsend.com. If a visitor to one of those approved websites clicks on the link and ends up buying something at the Lands’ End site, the affiliate website owner gets a 5% commission. The defendants in this case signed their websites up to be affiliates, and were approved.

In the process of signing up to become affiliates, however, the defendants only disclosed the URLs of their legitimate websites, e.g., savingsfinder.com. They did not tell Lands’ End that they also owned other domains like lnadsend.com and landswnd.com.

The defendants set up these other domain names so that if an Internet user accidentally typed one of them into a web browser, he or she would be automatically and invisibly redirected to the Lands’ End site. If one of those typosquatting victims purchased something at landsend.com, the defendants would pick up a commission.

The redirect only worked the first time a user would mistype the domain name. Perhaps to avoid detection, the defendants set up the redirect so that if a user typed the wrong domain name again, a 404 error would appear. (“Oh, I guess it was just a fluke.”)

After it noticed the defendants’ setup, Lands’ End filed suit alleging, among other things, violation of the ACPA. The defendants moved for summary judgment, arguing that there was no showing of bad faith. After all, the defendants argued, their scheme had sent visitors to the Lands’ End site, not diverted them away.

The court rejected the defendants’ argument and denied the motion for summary judgment as to the ACPA claim. It held that Lands’ End adduced substantial evidence to show that the defendants exploited the Lands’ End trademark to get commissions to which they were not entitled. Accordingly, the question of bad faith should ultimately be left up to the finder of fact.

Lands’ End, Inc. v. Remy, — F.Supp.2d —-, 2006 WL 2521321 (W.D. Wis., September 1, 2006).

This entry originally posted by Evan Brown at InternetCases.com.