Pinterest’s Victory over a Serial Cybersquatter

Pinterest celebrated a victory over cybersquatting on September 30th, 2013. The online pinboard-styled website has been awarded $7.2 million by a California judge after winning a case against a man who would register domain names which were similar to the social bookmarking website’s address. He would use these domains to misguide Pinterest users with websites that lead them towards spammy advertisements for online casinos.

Cybersquatting, or domain squatting, uses the root word “squatting” which means to occupy an abandoned or empty space. In the case of cybersquatting, these empty spaces are unregistered domain names. In the United States, the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act is a federal law against those who register domain names in bad faith, with the intent to profit from a trademark belonging to another individual or company. There are times when the cybersquatter may sell the similar domain name to the person or company to whom the trademark belongs for an inflated price.

Qian Jian, the man who had registered over 100 domains with names similar to Pinterest, had spent about two years purchasing and operating these websites. He is, according to court documents, a serial cybersquatter who would not be able to claim excusable neglect towards his actions. The domains that he had purchased to mislead Pincers (Pinterest users) had names like Pinterests.com and Pinterost.com. He would feed off users who accidentally mistype the address of Pinterest into their web browsers. These domains would lead wayward web browsers to online casinos from which Jian would profit.

Pinterest actually sought $12 million in damages, which is the maximum allowable according to law. The suit was filed about a year ago along with their trademark complaint. Pinterest claims that these acts of cybersquatting were hurting their bottom line. The San Francisco court, however, awarded them only $7.2 million in damages and legal fees. Nevertheless, the social bookmarking and photo sharing website couldn’t be happier about the outcome. A Pinterest spokesperson stated that they are going to continue to protect their users as well as their trademark.

The California judge says that Jian’s acts were willful and serial. The judge further stated that there was no indication of good faith mistake at all or even excusable neglect. The defendant did not even respond to the complaints and allegations of Pinterest. It is not clear whether or not he will pay the $7.5 million. The settlement is, at the moment, being labeled as a moral victory. The defendant is still nowhere to be found, and has been for a while. The plans on how to recoup the settlement from the cybersquatter are not yet clear as of this time.

Right now, if users were to visit the domains registered by Jian, they would still be directed to cheesy online casino advertisements and other spammy content. However, all these domains will soon be transferred to Pinterest. Facebook and Google have won similar cases against abusive domain registration by multiple defendants. Recently, Facebook was able to win over 100 domains and claim $2.8 million in damages.

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