Summarized by Kent Larsen
LDS Lawyer Becomes Domain-Name Bounty Hunter (Bounty Hunter, New Law Put Squeeze On Net Domain-Name Cybersquatters)
Wall Street Journal 20Dec99 P2
By Phyllis Plitch
NEW YORK, NEW YORK -- Former LDS missionary Gregory Phillips is getting
a reputation as an Internet domain-name bounty hunter. A Salt Lake City
lawyer, Phillips has arrived on the doorstep of "cybersquatters"
demanding that they turn over domain names using clients' trademarks and
corporate names. A controversial new U.S. law will also make his job
easier, allowing trademark owners to collect damages from
Phillips tracks down those that register the names, or similar words, as
internet domain names. His clients include major firms like Porsche AG,
Volkswagen AG, Ford Motor Co. and Callaway Golf Co. Often cybersquatters
are simply holding the names in an attempt to collect money from
well-known companies who didn't register the names themselves. Sometimes
the perpetrators try to hide by registering the names using bogus
addresses, making it difficult to track down the registrant.
And even after he finds the cybersquatter, Phillips many times has to
persuade them to cooperate. "We can do this the hard way or the easy
way," he tells those holding domain names. "The easy way is sign over
the name. The hard way is I walk out without an agreement and I have to
sue you for damages." He recently tracked down three software engineers
who had registered "every famous trademark imaginable" and eventually
convinced them that his client would never pay the $10,000 to $15,000
they wanted. The trio had planned to use his clients' domain name to
link to a pornography site.
On another occasion, he spent 15 hours, including extended chats over
lunch and dinner, to persuade a recent college graduate in Sacramento to
give up a domain name.
Now Phillips has a new tool to help in these disputes. President Clinton
recently signed into law the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act,
which will allow trademark holders to collect as much as $100,000 in
damages from cybersquatters. The law would also allow trademark holders
to sue for the domain name directly, effectively having the court order
the registrar for the domain name, to change the registration.
"Congress wanted to make clear that in egregious cases, [trademark
holders] can get $100,000," said Phillips. "Cyberpirates better wise up;
otherwise they're going to start getting nailed."
But the new legislation is controversial. Internet advocates don't like
the fact that a U.S. law is controlling the Internet, which they see as
outside the control of any one nation. "The legislation is making U.S.
trademark law the law of the Net because a root server resides in the
United States," said Kathryn Kleiman, a senior policy analyst for the
Association for Computing Machinery's Internet governance committee.
"This type of international jurisdiction by a single government is
exactly what ICANN is trying to avoid."