Domain name administrator is not a domain name registry for jurisdictional purposes

United States of America

In Vizer v Vizernews.com (Case No. 1:11-cv-00864, June 22 2012), the US District Court for the District of Columbia has held that, in order to qualify as a domain name authority for purposes of in rem jurisdiction under the Anti-cybersquatting Consumer Protection Act (ACPA), an entity must perform the functions of assigning and registering domain names. 

Plaintiff Marius Vizer brought suit against defendant Vizernews.com in federal court in the District of Columbia, asserting in rem jurisdiction under the ACPA based on the existence of an ICANN location in the district. Under §1125(d)(2)(A) of ACPA, a trademark owner can file an in rem suit against a domain name “in the judicial district in which the domain name registrar, domain name registry or other authority that registrant or assigned the domain name is located”. 

Although Vizernews.com made no appearance, the district court, sua sponte, raised the jurisdictional question as to whether ICANN, which maintains an office in Washington DC, qualifies as a “domain name authority” in response to Vizer’s motion for a default judgment. In concluding that the court lacked jurisdiction in rem, Judge Howell noted that ICANN does not sell or register domain names, it only administers the process. 

The case was dismissed.

Paul Devinsky, McDermott Will & Emery, Washington DC

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