Monday, September 22, 2008

Wine and Dine Corporation Files (and then Withdraws) $250 million Cybersquatting Lawsuit

This lawsuit makes you wonder “What do you think really happened?”

On September 19, 2008, Wine and Dine Corporation filed a $250 million lawsuit against MDNH, Inc., Marchex, Inc. and Brendhan Hight in the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada. See Wine and Dine Corporation v. MDNH, Inc. et al, Case No. 08-cv-01259 (D. Nev.)

Unfortunately, I can’t provide my usual level of details on the lawsuit because it turns out that the lawsuit was administratively terminated today and the complaint no longer available on PACER. The docket indicates it was terminated on the basis that the case was "opened in error by counsel."

Of course, in the fast-paced world of the Internet, it didn’t take long for news of this lawsuit to start generating buzz amongst those websites and forums that monitor and discuss domain-name related stories and lawsuits. See, for example, here and here .

What we can glean is that Wine and Dine (or more accurately Wine and Dine Properties Ltd.) owns the federal registered mark WINE & DINE for magazines in the field of food and spirits – registered since 1995 (with date of first use as early as September 24, 1993). The company publishes the online magazine Wine and Dine. As for MDNH, it is the named owner of the website, which was originally purchase in August 2000 and is currently just set up as a web-directory website with the typical pay-per-click links (courtesy of Marchex). Brendhan Hight is the named registrant contact for the domain.

Thus, the lawsuit would appear to be your standard cybersquatting lawsuit (except for the $250 million request for damages). But unless someone out there was able to nab a copy of the complaint before it was removed, I guess we’ll never know – unless the lawsuit is filed again.

[Full Disclosure: My current law firm has performed some services related to trademark maintenance and assignments on behalf of a company that previously owned the subject mark.]

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