Sports Franchises Fight Back Against Cyber-Squatting

Fighting back against cyber-squatters who they say have fraudulently appropriated versions of sports franchise names to rake in money, a group representing Major League Baseball, the National Football League, the National Basketball Association, and the National Hockey League have filed a lawsuit against an e-mail provider for violating the new Anti-Cybersquatting Consumer Protection Act.

The Coalition to Advance the Protection of Sports Logos (CAPS) said Tuesday that it filed the suit against flairmail.com, a free e-mail provider.

The Domain Name Game

The group, which also represents the Collegiate Licensing Company, said that flairmail.com offers its customers free e-mail addresses that incorporate the use of professional sports teams. Among the addresses CAPS cites are “gomagic.net,” “goredwings1.net,” and “yankees1.com,” referring to the Orlando NBA team, the Detroit hockey team, and the New York baseball team, respectively.

CAPS claims that the company profits from the use of the names by generating advertising revenue from the free e-mail accounts. It is seeking civil damages from flairmail.com for cyber-squatting, trademark infringement, unfair competition and false designation of origin.

“We will vigorously defend our rights against cyber-squatters as we do when battling counterfeiters and other trademark infringers,” said Kathryn Barnett, Vice President and Senior Intellectual Property Counsel for National Basketball Association Properties. “We’ve identified several others in cyberspace that may be targets of upcoming actions, and we will continue to monitor the Internet to make sure our intellectual property is protected.”

Banding Together

CAPS also accused Jeff Burgar — whom they say operates flairmail.com — of having been sued previously for cyber-squatting a corporate name for use in a pornographic site. Flairmail.com did not respond to written questions Tuesday from the E-Commerce Times, and the company’s Web site does not list contact telephone numbers or addresses.

The issue of cyber-squatting has come to the forefront of the Internet industry recently, and legislation to rope in the practice is expected to have some effect. Just how much remains unclear. President Clinton signed the new bill last month.

Some companies have taken it upon themselves to offer services that will jump ahead of cyber-squatters in the domain name line. Domain name registrar Register.com recently unveiled a service for corporations that it said would search, register and upgrade domain names that resemble the corporations’ names.

CAPS was initially founded in 1992 to combat the counterfeiting of items that infringe upon the licenses of professional and collegiate sports teams.

The group says it has participated in the seizure of unauthorized merchandise and manufacturing equipment nationwide with a street value in excess of $105 million (US$).

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