Verizon awarded largest-ever settlement in cybersquatting lawsuit

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A federal judge in the Northern District of California has awarded a US$33.15 million settlement to Verizon after it sued a domain registrar for cybersquatting on domains that tried to take advantage of domains that are easily misspelled or confusing variants of Verizon and its trademarks, Verizon announced on Wednesday.

"This case should send a clear message and serve to deter cybersquatters who continue to run businesses for the primary purpose of misleading consumers," Sarah Deutsch, vice president and associate general counsel, said in the statement. "Verizon intends to continue to take all steps necessary to protect our brand and consumers from Internet frauds and abuses."

The company, San Francisco-based OnlineNIC, is alleged to have registered 663 domains that were “designed to attract web users who were seeking to access Verizon’s legitimate websites”, according to the company. The settlement fee was based on US$50,000 per domain name – and that is very, very expensive. However, it may be hard for Verizon to collect the settlement based on the judgement, which was a default ruling, since the company did not defend itself during the lawsuit.

The company claims that it is an ICANN-accredited registrar; however, according to CNET News, the company is registered only through 2006. As well, the mailing address is in Oakland, California, not in San Francisco. According to the New York Times, the company has also cybersquatted on domains similar to those owned by companies including Google, MySpace, Adidas and Yahoo.

According to InternetNews, the company has sent Verizon on a wild-goose chase, since the company could not find the physical headquarters of the company. Eric Rabe, senior vice president of media relations, has told InternetNews that one of the locations was a body shop.

"We tried to serve them in a variety of different ways but couldn’t get to them," he said. He also added that Verizon suspects that its offices are outside of America.

OnlineNIC has not responded to questions sent by the media, or us.