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Ninth Circuit Affirms Dismissal of Seattle Law Firm's Cybersquatting Case

Interesting contrast to yesterday’s post.

Both cases involved a Web developer who believed he was owed money, and when the money wasn’t forthcoming, took the Web site offline.

The plaintiff won the suit that followed in DSPT Int’l, Inc. v. Nahum.

Not so in today’s case, The Christensen Firm v. Chameleon Data Corp.

In 2008, the Western District dismissed the Seattle law firm’s cybersquatting claim against the contractor on summary judgment on the ground the four domain names at issue (thechristensenfirm.com, thechristensenfirm.net, christensenfirm.com, and cc-lawfirm.com) were either generic (cc-lawfirm) or descriptive (The Christensen Firm) without the requisite showing of secondary meaning. (STL posts here and here.)

On Oct. 8 — the date I left for my trip (sorry, I’m still catching up) — the Ninth Circuit affirmed the finding in summary fashion. The bulk of the opinion is below.

“The Christensen Firm did not present sufficient evidence of secondary meaning of its domain names,” the court concluded. “The Christensen Firm’s evidence of third-party registrations of similar marks did not identify the goods or services associated with the similar marks or the basis for their registration. The Law Firm also didn’t present evidence that anyone in the relevant class of consumers ascribed any meaning to ‘cc’ other than ‘Colleen Christensen.’ The district court otherwise properly ruled that the defendants were entitled to summary judgment.”

On plaintiff’s conversion claim, the court again found the law did not support a recovery.

“The damages presented were the fees The Christensen Firm could have generated had its energies not been devoted to this case. These damages were essentially the attorneys’ fees a non-lawyer would have expended to litigate the action. Under Washington law, such attorneys’ fees are not recoverable. Other evidence of damages and the possibility of injunctive relief were not fairly presented in opposition to the defendants’ motion for judgment as a matter of law.”

The case cite is The Christensen Firm v. Chameleon Data Corp., 2010 WL 3938270, No. 08-35624 (9th Cir.) (Oct. 8, 2010).

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