Reverse Cybersquatting IS A DOMAIN NAME WORTH A MAGIC $1M
Townsville’s Jeff Geaney purchased the domain magicmillions.com two-and-a-half years ago from an American company for about $2500. He is now open to offers to sell the domain to the Australian Magic Millions owners for $1 million.
Although media have described him as a “cyber squatter”, it may not be a case of cyber squatting and Mr Geaney may have legitimate rights to the domain name.
The Magic Millions racing carnival web address is magicmillions.com.au. Media reports state it generates hundreds of millions of dollars in bloodstock traded annually and is owned by Gerry Harvey and Katie Page.
Mr Geaney has reportedly claimed that since he purchased magicmillions.com he has received thousands of emails mistakenly sent to that domain when people left the “.au” off an email address.
Cyber squatting occurs where a person reserves or uses a domain name in bad faith for the intent to profit on the goodwill of, or a trade mark belonging to, someone else. The magic millions name has a descriptive quality about it and it can be used for any number of legitimate purposes around the world.
Nicole Murdoch, our Principal at Technology and Commercial law firm EAGLEGATE Lawyers, and registered Trade Marks Attorney says traders can use a .com or .com.au domain address that happens to correspond to a registered trade mark without infringing the trade mark.
Traders can co-exist in the same marketplace under identical names. It is also important for traders to remember that trade marks are jurisdictional and an Australian registered trade mark does not protect the owners from use which occurs purely overseas.
Nicole, who does not act for Mr Geaney, says often people confuse a domain name with a trade mark. People believe that if they have a trade mark registration they can enforce it against any trader who uses that mark regardless of how they use the mark, but that is not the position under Trade Mark law.
A domain name is not a trade mark and rights to one do not trump rights to the other. The distinction between the two is an old debate: there is only one .com or one .com.au,and every trader wants it.
Some traders are prepared to resort to any means to secure the .com or .com.au despite the fact that another trader legitimately holds the domain name.
Attempts to steal domain names under the pretence of cybersquatting are so prevalent they are given the name Reverse Domain Hijacking, or Reverse Cybersquatting” she says.
There is no indication that either Gerry Harvey or Katie Page is engaging in Reverse Cybersquatting but this case highlights the struggles of traders who have legitimately registered domain names that correspond to trade marks and which face cybersquatting allegations.
Nicole says amid the hyperbole surrounding the annual Magic Millions Carnival on the Gold Coast, the domain name proposal should be better described as a business sales venture.
A licence to a .com domain name is an asset that can be bought and sold. The same business principles and business opportunities apply.