Chris Bosh relieves cybersquatter of hundreds of domain names
United States of America
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In Bosh v Zavala (Case 03-7162, September 24 2009), the US District Court for the Central District of California has ordered Luis Zavala to transfer nearly 800 domain names that include the names of professional and amateur athletes, celebrities and musicians, among others, to Chris Bosh.
Chris Bosh is a professional basketball player on the Toronto Raptors team, which is affiliated with the National Basketball Association (NBA). Bosh, a technology-savvy entrepreneur, founded social network firm Max Deal and operates a website at the domain name 'chris-bosh.com', as well as a Twitter feed, a blog, and Facebook, MySpace and YouTube pages.
Luis Zavala (doing business as Hoopology) registered nearly 800 domains, including 'chrisbosh.com', which was originally registered on May 15 2001 and which Zavala has owned since at least April 23 2004. For a number of years, Zavala has placed advertising links on the website attached to 'chrisbosh.com', linking to commercial pages dealing with Bosh, the NBA and the Toronto Raptors. The hundreds of other domains owned by Zavala include the names of other professional basketball players, college and high-school players, and celebrities, as well as famous trademarks. In a personal blog, Zavala boasted that owning domain names associated with athletes and celebrities was “a great source of income”.
In July 2008 Bosh sent a cease and desist letter to Zavala demanding that he stop using the 'chrisbosh.com' domain name. Zavala refused and redirected the site to another domain that also contained paid advertising. Bosh filed suit under the Anti-cybersquatting Consumer Protection Act and alleged that his name was famous at the time Zavala registered the domain name 'chrisbosh.com'. In addition to requesting a transfer of the domain name, Bosh demanded statutory damages in the amount of $100,000 per domain name. Bosh also filed a state claim under California’s right of publicity statute.
After receiving no answer from Zavala, the court granted a default judgment against him, ordering that he pay Bosh statutory damages in the amount of $100,000, plus prejudgment interest, attorneys’ fees and costs. The court also entered an injunction against Zavala. As a judgment debtor, Zavala was then ordered to transfer his entire domain name holdings to Bosh, including hundreds of domain names that included third-party names and trademarks. In ordering the transfer, the court appeared to treat the domain names as property that could be used to satisfy the judgment against Zavala. In a later press release, Bosh indicated that he would return the domain names to their rightful owners, but also mentioned that he may use the opportunity to entice them to utilize the services of his social network firm.
Susan M Natland and Jeffrey H Larson, Knobbe Martens Olson & Bear LLP, Irvine
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