MAYFLOWER cybergriper is not a cybersquatter

In Mayflower Transit LLC v Prince, the District Court of New Jersey has held that 'cybergriping' is not actionable under the Anti-cybersquatting Consumer Protection Act, even if the defendant used a domain name that was confusingly similar to a trademark to voice complaints in an effort to extract a monetary settlement from the plaintiff.

The plaintiff, Mayflower Transit, owns the MAYFLOWER mark for moving, shipping and storage services conducted in interstate commerce. While Mayflower does not conduct such services in intrastate commerce, some of the agents it uses to conduct its interstate services also provide intrastate services outside of their relationship with Mayflower. One of these agents, Lincoln Moving & Storage Co, provided such intrastate services to Brett Prince. Much of Prince's property was stolen during the move.

Prince registered several domain names incorporating the MAYFLOWER mark as well as other marks associated with Lincoln and the insurer involved in Prince's claim. He used the websites hosted under these domain names to post information describing his unsatisfactory experience. Mayflower advised Prince that it was not involved in the move, even though the van used in the move bore the MAYFLOWER mark as did some of the packing boxes and contract forms. Prince allegedly replied that he would not change his websites until he received a satisfactory settlement. Mayflower sued Prince for violations of the anti-cybersquatting statute, dilution under federal law and defamation under Connecticut law. Mayflower brought cross motions for summary judgment on the anti-cybersquatting and defamation claims.

The court held that the anti-cybersquatting claims should be dismissed because Prince lacked the requisite bad-faith intent to profit. The court was unmoved by Mayflower's attempt to portray Prince's websites as "bargaining chips to obtain personal advantage". Rather, Prince's cybergriping fell within the free speech protection of the US Constitution instead of an attempt to profit.

The case will continue on the defamation and dilution claims.

Karin Segall, Darby & Darby, New York

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