Some random items of importance to me:
It was clear to me at the time that domain names were valuable, undeveloped virtual real estate. There was absolutely no statutory or case law regarding trademarks in the context of Internet domain names at the time. It seemed to be an excellent opportunity to do the virtual equivalent of buying up property around a factory -- eventually the factory owner would realize that he needed the scarce resource which I possessed.
I sat on my virtual real estate and waited for offers (and threats). Many even-tempered folks purchased domain names and went on their way. Others sued me. I litigated two domain names because I wanted to determine if a domain name holder is legally bound to turn over a domain to a trademark holder.
Unfortunately, Federal Courts sided with trademark holders in Intermatic and Panavision. Rather than accepting my real estate analogy, the courts likened my actions to taking a lollipop from a defenseless toddler. Shortly after the courts ruled against me, I abandoned all domain registrations corresponding with trademarks.
The Panavision and Intermatic cases formed the foundation of modern Internet trademark law. Unfortunately, both unreasonably favor the trademark holders.
It's worth noting that a well-known letter which I sent to Panavision in 1996 was not actually a demand, as it was characterized by Panavision's attorney. Rather, it was a response to multiple unpleasant phone calls and phone messages from a particular individual at Panavision. Of course, it is the job of one's attorney to transform objective reality into something more melodramatic and exciting than it really is. Panavision's attorney was adept at spouting melodramatic language. If only he was not opposing counsel!
Here's a snippet from a 6/25/99 email to San Jose Mercury News which addresses this matter:
">Please realize that it is common for plaintiffs to use colorful, if not inaccurate, language in their complaints. In the case of panavision.com, I did not solicit Panavision LLP. To the contrary, I received a number of [what I would characterize as] harrassing calls from Panavision LLP CEO John Farrand threatening legal action if I did not remove my website featuring aerial photos of Pana, IL and surrender panavision.com to his company. The facts simply do not support [Panavision's] colorful label, 'extortionist'. That label came from panavision's melodramatic complaint. >Since a trademark does not confer a right in gross, and since I was not offering a competing product, I chose to litigate this novel matter of law to establish my rights. Interestingly, one of the judges on 9th Circuit bench said, "Clearly, you win on the law, but..." >When I chose to litigate panavision.com, I clearly overlooked a lesson I learned in an undergraduate class called Law and Economics, that courts sometimes rule in favor of [a viscerally] appealing outcome without regard for [statutory] law or established legal doctrine."
Nevertheless, domain speculation was profitable. My initial high-risk investment of about $30,000 led to legal fees totalling about $100,000 and revenues (as of 2013) of about $920,000. My biggest sale was $175,000 for a single domain in 2000. Second largest sale was $120,000 for a single domain in 2014. Recently, I've been selling one or two domains per year from inventory.
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Last updated 1/30/05