Is that my Chanel You’re Squatting?
As of earlier this week, luxury retailer Chanel Inc. has filed a massive cyberpiracy and trademark infringement lawsuit against 399 websites hosted on domain names that contain Chanel’s trademarks. According to Chanel, the sites have been selling counterfeit goods like shoes, handbags, clothing, jewelry and other accessories.
The lawsuit is seeking an order to seize the domain names listed in the complaint. Domain name seizures have been a popular tactic used by the U.S. government, especially the Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) division, to shut down the sales of counterfeit goods and pirated content online. The attorneys handling the Chanel case also filed a lawsuit on behalf of Tiffany & Co. back in April against 223 domain name owners. There are 19 defendants from the Tiffany suit that are named in the Chanel suit.
The lawsuit contends that the owners of these domains use search engine optimization strategies to rank highly in search results and make it easy for consumers to find their sites.
These two lawsuits are some of the biggest domain name-based lawsuits we have seen, and it will be interesting to watch how the Chanel case plays out. More than anything, instances like these should drive home to legislators the need to reform the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act (ACPA).