Domainmonster.com Industry News
Baylor University Files Domain Dispute
Baylor University trying to access a number of websites that you would expect to be Baylor related now redirect visitors to the official athletics site of the University of Texas A&M Aggies. John Stipe a Baylor alumnus registered these domain names for around $15 each from an online database of expired domain names and then redirected them to the Aggies homepage. Domain names are usually purchased for one to ten years at a time and the owner of a domain name may choose to renew ownership of the space before its expiration at this time the URL is added to a list of domains available for purchase. When the university let their possession of the domain names expire, Stipe bought them.
Stipe claims that the owners had ample time to renew ownership of their URL. It is claimed that email notifications were sent to the owners 5 months before expiry. Once a domain name does expire, the former owner can still regain the URL during the 30 day grace period, the 30 day redemption period and the five day pending release period. After these intervals of grace, a former owner cannot get back their URL unless the name is a trademark. ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers must handle all complaints concerning trademark issues and domain name problems. Baylor filed a law suit in January against Stipe through ICANN. The University hopes to reclaim the disputed domain names on the grounds that the term “Baylor Bears” is a trademark and as a result Stipe’s ownership of the domain name with the words “Baylor Bears” infringes trademark policy.
“Baylor University has used the word mark ‘Baylor Bears’ for many years and has registered the mark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office,” said Kit Riehl, assistant general counsel member. Stipe says that “Baylor Bears” must be used in conjunction with the old-fashioned bear donning the sailor-style “B” hat in order to violate the trademark. As part of a collection of exhibits that will form evidence against Stipe is an image of the bear with sailor-style “B” hat. The request for Stipe to relinquish the domain names was ignored after receiving a cease and desist order. Stipe claimed that this order was sent by email to an account that he rarely checks. Riehl said anyone involved in a pending trademark case with the University can at any time contact the university to settle the case outside of ICANN trademark infringement procedures or court.
Riehl said the university could have filed a lawsuit in a district court instead of with ICANN, in which case the suit would try to acquire payment of monetary damages in addition to recovering the domain names. Riehl wouldn’t comment on Stipes case specifically as it is still pending. Stipe feels the university’s trademark complaint is the only viable venue for Baylor to recover the domain names. “(The university has) marketing ideas they want to do with those Web sites but they messed up and let them expire and they just want to take them from me,” Stipe said. Stipe said he originally purchased baylorbears.net to set up a forum for job listings and discussion for Baylor students, alumni, faculty and staff. After earning thousands in the dot-com boom, Stipe hoped he could once again profit from the Internet through this forum while serving Baylor. He noted baylorfans.com, a site not operated by the university but still using the Baylor name and tuning a profit through banner ads. Riehl wouldn’t comment on baylorfans.com.
Stipe lacked the necessary funds to launch the forum, and then thought to direct the sites to the Aggies’ homepage. “They’re lucky I bought (the sites), not someone else who would have linked (them) to a porn site,” Stipe said. Stipe said he hasn’t attempted to sell the domain names back to the university, proving his motive was to develop a Web site, not to sell the domain names back to the university at an unreasonable price. Cyber squatting, the practice of buying inexpensive domain names then selling them to companies at inflated prices isn’t as common now as it was during the dot-com boom, Stipe said. Jennifer said companies and individuals cyber squat legitimately, but she agreed with Stipe that the practice has decreased in popularity. Stipe thinks he will eventually be forced to relinquish the domain names, noting ICANN usually sides with the complainant in trademark disputes. “Baylor has never filed an unsuccessful complaint with ICANN,” Riehl said