GoDaddy did not infringe on trademarks when it allowed domains including the words “Oscars” and “Academy Awards” to be registered, the Central District Court of California has ruled. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences sued GoDaddy in 2010 for $31 million over hundreds of domain names registered with GoDaddy that it claimed violated its trademark.
Unlike actual content, hosts are not protected from trademark violations by the Communications Decency Act Section 230. However, the court found (PDF) that many of the allegedly infringing domains were either not in violation at all, or were cases of legitimate overlap, such as domains registered by people named “Oscar.”
Judge Andre Birotte found that the Academy had failed to present any evidence that GoDaddy did not have industry-leading trademark protection practices, as it believed. He also found that GoDaddy did not have intent to infringe a trademark when it collected revenues from the domains in question, that those revenues were negligible, and that there was no evidence the Academy had been injured (because it wouldn’t have collected those funds itself anyway).
The original complaint refers to ads which were served by Google as part of GoDaddy’s free parking program. The Academy did not contact Google about the infringement, however, causing GoDaddy attorney Robert Galvin to ask, “Why are you going after GoDaddy? Is it because we have kind of a funny name, and we’re not the world’s largest search provider?” according to The Register.
The Academy can appeal up to Sept. 25. GoDaddy was sued, along with AWS, last week over the Ashley Madison hack, although the suit may yet be thrown out on Section 230 protection grounds.