Parked domain names were in “use in commerce” for purposes of Section 43(a) claim

Plaintiff, the owner of a college student housing facility, filed suit for unfair competition under Section 43(a) of the Lanham Act against a number of entities and individuals that operated a competing student housing facility. Defendants registered eight domain names that incorporated plaintiff’s trademarks. At first defendants used some of the domain names to redirect traffic to the website for defendants’ competing student housing facility. But after plaintiff demanded defendants cease and desist, defendants simply parked the domain names with GoDaddy and permitted pay-per-click ads to appear on the pages. 

The case went to trial and the court found in plaintiff’s favor on the unfair competition claim. The court determined that the domain names were confusingly similar to plaintiff’s marks that had acquired secondary meaning. And the use of the domain names in the manner defendants had set them up constituted use in commerce. Each of the web pages displayed the domain name associated with it – and each such domain contained plaintiff’s mark. And each of the pages showed pay-per-click ads comprised of links to various vendors’ goods and services. This use met the Lanham Act’s definition of “use in commerce”. 

ZP No. 314, LLC v. ILM Capital, LLC, No. 16-521, 2019 WL 4924029 (S.D. Alabama, September 30, 2019)

About the Author: Evan Brown is a Chicago technology and intellectual property attorney. Call Evan at (630) 362-7237, send email to ebrown [at] internetcases.com, or follow him on Twitter @internetcases. Read Evan’s other blog, UDRP Tracker, for information about domain name disputes.