It’s not a great week for the operators of sites like dacebook.com or fececbook.com. It’s a slightly better one for the folks who inadvertently type in those URLs while looking for Facebook.
On Monday, the U.S. District Court for Northern California handed the social network a victory in its lawsuit against several of the companies and people known as domain squatters, who had registered more than 100 domains with some variations on its name. The defendants, with names such as Intercontinental Domain Inc. and Mackrooner Ltd., didn’t respond to the allegations, so Facebook (FB) won a default judgment and nearly $3 million in statutory damages.
Attorney Eric Menhart, who specializes in domain name cases, says the award is attention-grabbing, though he suspects Facebook won’t actually receive any money. “They won’t bother to pursue it,” he says, “and the defendants almost certainly don’t have it.”
Domain squatting, a subset of trademark infringement, has been illegal since the passage of the U.S. Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act in 1999. Domain name owners aren’t allowed to exploit the fame of another company’s trademark for profit, including by selling ads on the soundalike site. Enforcement has always been difficult, though, as anyone who’s ever inserted a typo into a popular URL can attest.
Companies such as Google (GOOG) and Yahoo (YHOO) have scored previous victories against domain squatters, and Facebook has been intensifying its own battle in the past few years. Facebook’s associate general counsel, Craig Clark, told TechCrunch in an e-mail, “We are pleased with the court’s recommendation. We will continue to use all the tools at our disposal to enforce against those who attempt to take advantage of the people who use our service.”