Judge Throws Out Cybersquatting Claims For 16 Year Old Domain

In what has to be one of the best court transcripts about a domain name I’ve read, Judge Lewis Kaplan essentially eviscerated the attorney for Office Space Solutions, a company that was attempting to sue programmer Jason Kneen on the grounds of “warehousing” a domain for 16 years. You can read the back story here but, in short, Kneen, who lives in the UK, did not want to sell his domain and the owner of Office Space Solutions, Harsh Mehta, attempted to cite cybersquatting law to take it from him.

“However you slice it,” said Judge Kaplan, “There are good cybersquatting cases and there are bad ones. And this is really one of the bad ones.”

Mehta’s attorney, John Bostany, attempted to outline all of the points in which Kneen was in the wrong which is standard procedure in cases like these. However, at each turn Judge Kaplan countered. In arguing that Kneen was an “international businessman,” the following exchange occurred.

“However you slice it,” said Judge Kaplan, “There are good cybersquatting cases and there are bad ones. And this is really one of the bad ones.”

Bostany: …He says, it’s in paragraph 7 of the Khan declaration, we quote from the defendants. “I work for clients in the U.K., U.S.A., I am a speaker on mobile development and I’m currently authoring two books on titanium.”

Judge Kaplan: So it’s the titanium you’re hanging your hat on, is that right?

Judge Kaplan: Somebody who you say is in the business of selling domain names but has managed in 17 years to sell two.

Botany: Right. He’s managed to do — escape the — in his mind he’s doing exactly what he’s getting you to do today, which is to leave him alone so that when someone does develop an interest in these names that he’s not using in any way whatsoever other than warehousing, they will develop an interest in them enough to pay him a huge amount. Not $500, not a thousand dollars. Who knows? We asked him what kind of counter offer and he said I don’t even want to say it right now, I want to wait.

THE COURT: Let’s be practical, Mr. Bostany. What went on here is you were trying to set him up. Your client was trying to set him up.

In the end the Judge had the last word. In a long and detailed takedown, Judge Kaplan assessed each of Bostany’s points and found all of them lacking. He even questioned Kneen’s prowess as a domain reseller.

Judge Kaplan: The balance of hardships in my view, if it cuts in any direction cuts in favor of Mr. Kneen because an injunction could threaten to interfere with a perfectly lawful and appropriate course of business in which he’s been engaged since 1999, all at the behest of somebody who appears to have a — who quite obviously just went out and registered a mark that he undoubtedly knew was nearly identical to the domain name registered and used by the plaintiff for many years for perfectly legitimate reasons.

While it’s upsetting that it’s almost impossible to get good domain names these days, it’s clear that domains are property and barring egregious action – grabbing a long-standing registered trademark, for example – owners should be able to sell to whom and for as much as they please.

Kneen Transcript of Preliminary Injunction Hearing-2