Archive for April, 2007

Farewell for Now

In a few days, I’m starting a new job at The Wall Street Journal and will no longer be blogging here. I want to thank all of you who’ve read the blog, posted comments and sent me tips and other information to assist me with my reporting on the domain-name market. I’ll continue to keep abreast of developments in the market for my book, which is slated to be published next year. You can still reach me at the email address listed under the “contact” heading on this blog. 

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Verizon Sues iREIT for Alleged Cybersquatting

Verizon, the phone giant, has filed a federal lawsuit accusing Internet REIT, one of the world’s largest investors in domain names, of massive cybersquatting and trademark infringement.

The suit, filed in iREIT’s hometown of Houston, accuses the closely held company of operating more than 90 domains that are typographical variations of its trademarks, including verizonwirelessgames.com, virizonpcs.com, virizonwirles.com and verizonwirelessreabates.com. Verizon says iREIT has been displaying pay-per-click ads on the sites for various products that compete with Verizon’s. The phone company is seeking an injunction barring iREIT’s use of the names, as well as damages of $100,000 per name under the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act, which was enacted in 1999.

The suit, filed March 23, also claims iREIT owns thousands of other domains corresponding to other companies’ trademarks, such as bankofanmerica.com, disnelyland.com and ebayonlineauctions.com. In addition, the suit claims iREIT has intentionally provided “material and misleading false contact information” when registering some of its names.

Bob Martin, the chief executive of iREIT, said in an email that “we are already in contact with Verizon representatives and plan to have a thoughtful response to them soon.” iREIT’s financial backers include Maveron LLC, a Seattle venture-capital firm co-founded by Starbucks Chairman Howard Schultz; Perot Investments, a Dallas investment company founded by billionaire and former presidential candidate H. Ross Perot; and Jacobson Family Investments, the investment vehicle of a wealthy New York Family.

Earlier this year, I first reported iREIT’s ownership of large numbers of Web addresses that correspond with major corporate trademarks, including those of Google, its paid-search advertising partner. iREIT, co-founded by Martin and Marc Ostrofsky, who’s famous for selling business.com for $7.5 million in 1999, owns roughly 400,000 sites, including bands.com and officesupply.com.