Mattel Wins Case Against Cybersquatter

FRAMINGHAM (07/21/2000) - A court this month invokedrecent legislation protecting companies from cybersquatters when it ordered a pornographic Web site to stop using Mattel's trademark "Barbie" as part of its domain name.

Mattel Inc. in El Segundo, Calif., sued the porn site's parent company, Internet Dimensions Inc. in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., for trademark infringement when it discovered the site. The U.S. District Court in the Southern District of New York issued a cease-and-desist order, and the site has shut down.

Brand Protection

A Mattel spokeswoman said the company will defend its brand names, even if no complaints have been made bycustomers. "For us, it really is about enforcing our rights," said spokeswoman Lisa Marie Bongiovanni. "We have incredible equity in our brands."

Although she said she knew of no specific complaints by customers regarding, Bongiovanni said Mattel won't risk a customer thinking it sponsors a porn site or any non-Mattel site.

The company will go after anyone who uses a Mattel trademark, she said. Phone calls and e-mail sent to Benjamin Schiff, Internet Dimensions' sole officer and employee, weren't returned.

"The case strengthens the ability of the marque owner to protect its marque from tarnishment from uses on the Web," said Robert Lytle, a legal expert on cybersquatting at Washington-based Howrey, Simon, Arnold & White LLP.

Passed last year, the Anti-cybersquatting Consumer Protection Act is intended to provide relief from cybersquatting - the practice of using someone else's name or brand to market other merchandise. In addition, it helps individuals and companies whose names are "held hostage" for a fee, Lytle said.

The law also provides immediate relief for victims of cybersquatting, Lytle said. A company or person can get an injunction on a Web site if the owner can't be found. The injunction forces the Web site's Internet service provider to de-activate the site.

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