By: Rob Harris
In 2006, Ryan Carey registered the domain name greenjacketauctions.com, a website he used to sell Masters memorabilia. Eleven years later, Augusta National brought an administrative action, seeking to have the domain name assigned to it for the reason that it unlawfully appropriated Augusta National’s Green Jacket trademark.
Augusta National argued that “the incorporation of Complainant’s [i.e. Augusta Nationals’s] mark into the Domain Name leads consumers to believe mistakenly that his goods and services are associated with or authorized by Complainant. … Respondent registered and uses the Domain Name in bad faith. He has no connection or affiliation with Complainant nor has he at any time been licensed or authorized to use Complainant’s mark in a domain name or for any other manner. He uses it to attract, for commercial gain, internet users to his web site by creating a likelihood of confusion as to the source, sponsorship, affiliation or endorsement of the site by Complainant.”
The tribunal ruled in favor of Augusta National, finding that:
“Complainant had a unique and obvious property interest in the GREEN JACKET mark and Respondent intentionally appropriated it to his own use, for his own commercial gain, when he registered the Domain Name…Further, it is clear from the evidence that Respondent registered and uses the Domain Name to attract Internet users to his web site by creating a likelihood for confusion as to the source, sponsorship, affiliation, or endorsement of the site…The extent to which Respondent may actually be competing with Complainant is not clear, but what is clear is that he is using Complainant’s mark to promote his auctioneering business. It is also clear that his use of the Domain Name and Complainant’s GREEN JACKET mark creates confusion as to the source, sponsorship, affiliation or endorsement of his web site and the services offered on it.”
Mr. Carey and his company, Green Jacket Auctions, Inc., have now taken this matter to federal court, alleging in a complaint that there is no substantive basis entitling Augusta National to assert ownership to the domain name, and that, in any event, the 11 year delay in seeking such relief is too long.