Court Rules on Cybersquatting Case
WASHINGTON (AP) _ A Christmas tree farm in Pennsylvania forced to give up its Internet name in a ``cybersquatting″ dispute lost a Supreme Court appeal Monday.
The court, without comment, turned down arguments by Sporty’s Farm that it wrongly was forced to give up the Web site name ``sportys.com″ to another company.
The dispute is between Sporty’s and Sportsman’s Market of Batavia, Ohio, which sells aviation-related products through mail-order catalogs. Sportsman’s registered ``sporty’s″ as a trademark in 1985 and uses the name on its catalogs.
In 1995, Omega Engineering of Stamford, Conn., registered the Internet site name sportys.com. Omega makes scientific measurement and control instruments.
Omega formed Sporty’s Farm in Sterling, Pa., the following year to grow and sell Christmas trees, and it sold the Internet name to the farm.
Sporty’s and Sportsman’s sued each other in federal court in Connecticut in 1996. A judge, ruling under the Federal Trademark Dilution Act, decided the farm was harming Sportsman’s trademark and ordered the farm to surrender the Internet name.
While the case was being appealed, Congress enacted the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act last November. The law lets trademark holders force other people to give up an Internet name that is identical or very similar to the trademark. It applies to Internet names registered before and after the law took effect.
Last February, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals relied on the new law as it upheld the judge’s ruling. The appeals court said it need not send the case back to the judge because his findings were sufficient to allow the appeals court to apply the new law.
The 2nd Circuit court said there was ``overwhelming evidence″ that Sporty’s Farm acted with bad faith. Omega was trying to keep Sportsman’s from using the ``sporty’s″ name on the Internet because Omega planned to begin competing with Sportsman’s in the aviation consumer market, the appeals court said.
The farm’s lawyers told the justices the case should have been returned to the lower court. The appeal also said that forcing Sporty’s to give up its Internet name was an unlawful taking of its property without compensation.
The case is Sporty’s Farm v. Sportsman’s Market, 99-1752.
On the Net: For the appeals court ruling: http://www.uscourts.gov/links.html and click on 2nd Circuit.