Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Craigslist in trademark and domain name dispute with spoof site and "unofficial blog"

There is a new trademark dispute involving Craigslist. This incident involves the website called “craigslistblog.org” tared by Tim White. The site has a banner that reads both “unofficial craigslist blog” and “not affiliated with craigslist, Inc.” The site is a blog with amusing stories about little scams and incidents and some humorous and even mildly sexy pictures.

Craigslist finally started its own corporate blog, and I note that it is done with simple Wordpress.

Craigslist then also sent Tim what appears to be a cease and desist letter and Tim posted it on the blog, here.

This would appear to be a case of using the new concept of “prospective dilution” spelled out in the 2006 revised trademark law (see June 2007 on this blog). There is an increasing body of experience that suggests that domain names based on existing trademarks sometimes are considered infringing and likely to cause “confusion” or “dilution.” There is also an inexpensive administrative domain name resolution policy specified by ICANN based on the idea that the domain owner must register the name in “good faith.” However, as Electronic Frontier Foundation has pointed out, use of a trademarked name in a domain name is not necessarily infringing if it is set up to parody or criticize an existing trademarked entity. That is because parody or criticism provide legitimate (even if unfavorable) information about a brand. From a cursory look at White’s site, it isn’t obviously clear, however, that this is his intention.

Arstechnica has a story about this situation by Jacqui Cheng, “Craigslist bullies unofficial blog over domain, trademarks,” here.

I've noticed that people often set up "unofficial fan sites" for celebrities, sometime using the celebrities' names as domain names, and have wondered about the legal consequences of such practice.

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