Go Daddy Victorious in Cybersquatting Dispute

On January 3, 2012, Judge Phyllis J. Hamilton of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California granted Go Daddy's motion for summary judgment dismissing the claims of Malaysia's national oil company, Petroliam Nasional Berhad (Petronas). Petronas brought claims alleging cybersquatting, contributory cybersquatting, and unfair competition against Go Daddy. Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati represented Go Daddy in the matter.

Petronas sought to hold domain-name registrar Go Daddy liable for cybersquatting and for contributory cybersquatting on the basis that a third-party registrant used Go Daddy's automated systems to point two domain names invoking the Petronas trademark to a pornographic website hosted elsewhere. Finding that Go Daddy simply provided the infrastructure to route the domain names to those websites, and did not exercise "direct control and monitoring" over the alleged cybersquatting, Judge Hamilton granted Go Daddy's motion for summary judgment as to both causes of action, as well as the unfair competition claim. The court also denied Petronas's motion for partial summary judgment as to the claim for contributory cybersquatting, finding that such claim did not exist under the circumstances of the case.

Go Daddy's counterclaim for cancellation of the federal trademark registration of Petronas is pending.

The court's decision is an important addition to the evolving case law concerning claims of secondary liability against Internet service providers. In particular, the court made clear that domain-name registrars should not be liable for cybersquatting by customers where, as here, their involvement is based on automated processes in which they have no conscious involvement or knowledge of illegality.

For more information, please see the court's decision.