California - San-Diego based ShareTV has landed a huge victory with a federal court judge awarding the company the rights to use the sharetv.com domain name. The lawsuit, which was filed in April in the Eastern District of Virginia, cited a volume of claims, including state and federal trademark infringement. The allegations were all made against the same individual, Sooyong Kim of Korea, for his operation of the ShareTV.com website, which was used as a parked page that featured almost entirely sponsored links and ads.
ShareTV has gained widespread popularity in a short amount of time as one stop (online) shop for TV content. The site contains information about actors, characters and plots, includes past and upcoming episode information and lets users comment and review shows. Through its distribution agreement with streaming TV kingpin Hulu, it also provides access to full length episodes of hundreds of TV shows.
Court documents reveal that Kim registered the SmartTV.com domain in 2004, years before ShareTV was formed in 2007 out of founder Chris Richmond's bedroom. However, the complaint details how Kim deliberately augmented to his website to make it more like the one operated by ShareTV, SmartTV.org. It claims that Kim went so far as to display a large ShareTV logo during the time when ShareTV was negotiating to buy the domain name from Kim. ShareTV alleges that negotiations fell through when Kim demanded an enormous amount of money for the domain, which was significantly higher than market value, and continued to disregard demands to take down the confusing elements of his site.
In his ruling, the judge gave heavy weight to Kim's purposeful actions and placed less emphasis on the fact that Kim had registered the domain first, finding that Kim's "actions were done with the deliberate intent to deceive potential and actual users/consumers to [ShareTV's] website." He held that a parked page could serve as the basis for a trademark infringement claim, even if the page was registered before the alleged infringed mark was used. As a result, the judge concluded that ShareTV is the rightful over of the .com domain and that it could begin use of the domain immediately.
Clearly pleased by the outcome of the dispute, Richmond responded by saying, "We hope that our case will set a precedent and pave the way for future startups. The fact that we were able to prove trademark infringement against a domain registered four years before we began business is huge, and we hope it encourages companies faced with a similar situation to take action."