GoDaddy 'Parked Pages' Lawsuit Heats Up

Jan 18, 2014 11:30 AM PST

LOS ANGELES — The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' suit against GoDaddy for allegedly trafficking in unauthorized trademarks heated up again this week after the Academy's attorneys called the registrar's latest legal actions "outrageous and sanctionable."

Scottsdale, Ariz.-based GoDaddy, which is accused in the suit of allowing customers to buy parked pages and collect a portion of revenue from advertising partners on a pay-per-click basis, filed a motion last week to recuse U.S. District Judge Audrey Collins, who sits in Los Angeles.

Collins, GoDaddy charged, is biased for the Academy because of a number of pre-trial rulings and that she should be tossed off the case because her daughter is an actress who had small parts in "Deception," "The Producers" and other films.

GoDaddy also alleged that multiple Academy officials privately refer to her as "the Academy's judge" and that most Academy cases have been funneled into her courtroom in recent years.

The Academy, in response to GoDaddy's motion to toss Collins off the case, called the registrar's request "meritless and insulting" and said the motion was "strategic."

"GoDaddy’s motion, which essentially alleges that nearly 20 judges in the [U.S. District Court in Los Angeles] were 'complicit' in transferring such cases to Judge Collins, is simply outrageous," the Academy said.

The motion to recuse Collins was constructed in an affidavit of GoDaddy' s general counsel, Nima Kelly.

Kelly, in a 16-page affidavit last week blasted the federal jurist, saying that the "motion is made because the totality of the circumstances demonstrates a bias, or at least an appearance of bias, by Judge Collins in favor of [the Academy] such that a reasonable person with knowledge of all the facts would believe that her impartiality might be questioned."

­­­­­­­­Kelly said GoDaddy began its probe of the judge after one of the opposing lawyers sent a letter to a GoDaddy investor touting that Collins "has handled all the Academy's federal litigation for more than 15 years."

Another federal jurist, U.S. District Judge Dale S. Fischer in Los Angeles, will decide on GoDaddy' s recusal motion on Feb. 3

GoDaddy has infringed on and deliberately appropriated more than 100 of their marks with such domain names as OscarRedCarpet.com, OscarActor.com, AcademyAwards2015.com and BillyCrystal2012Oscars.com, according to an amended lawsuit filed last month.

The suit, filed at U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, seeks a restraining order over the practice of scooping up the Academy's trademarks and appropriating them through parked pages. The suit also seeks $100,000 in damages for every domain allegedly poached, as well as attorneys fees.

In the suit, the Academy claims that GoDaddy knew it was harming trademark holders, such as its organization, and has even come up with a patent that recognizes the need for systems that identify domains that could yield financial benefits.

The suit narrowly focuses on how GoDaddy registers and monetizes parked domains through its Parked Page Service and Cash Parking Program.

GoDaddy parks registrants' pages and places advertisements on web pages with Parked Page Service; Go Daddy is granted the right to collect and retain all revenue generated by the advertising.

The Cash Parking Program service permits domain registrants to pay a fee to allow GoDaddy through its advertising partner to place ads on the registrant's web page. The revenue generated through that advertising is then split between the registrant, GoDaddy and GoDaddy' s advertising partner.

The Academy's suit could spur additional litigation against GoDaddy — including claims possibly waged by online adult companies that find their marks being similarly poached and exploited.

GoDaddy officials did not respond to XBIZ for comment on Friday.

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