Anti-abortion cybersquatter ordered to shut down sites


A US district court has issued a temporary restraining order against William Purdy, ordering him to shut down websites containing trademarks owned by Coca-Cola, Pepsi, McDonald's and the Washington Post, and to transfer the domain names to the respective owners.

The four companies joined forces in a lawsuit under the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act (ACPA) against Purdy, who registered a series of domain names incorporating the companies' famous trademarks. His domain names misdirected internet users to '', a graphic anti-abortion website. Purdy claimed that he registered the domain names to criticize the companies for not taking a stand against abortion.

Purdy claimed that he was inspired by another active cybersquatter, John Barry, who has registered domain names similar to the names of popular businesses, news media organizations, school districts and celebrities in order to escort unwitting internet visitors to ''. Barry, however, actively coerces companies to pay cash for the domain names and has lost at least 12 Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy decisions related to these activities.

The four plaintiffs alleged that despite sending multiple cease and desist orders to Purdy, he continued to use the domain names. The plaintiffs sued Purdy in the US District Court for the District of Minnesota, arguing that he had been "systematically hijacking the famous trademarks of renowned food and beverage products companies and prominent news organizations to gain publicity and divert traffic to anti-abortion websites."

The case is pending, and it is possible that the court will award damages in addition to ordering the transfer of the names. It demonstrates that trademark owners can successfully halt the infringing use of their marks in domain names that direct visitors to websites containing damaging or objectionable content. The ACPA is a particularly effective means of stopping such egregious misconduct.

James L Bikoff and Patrick L Jones, Silverberg Goldman & Bikoff, Washington DC

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