A federal court in Northern California has awarded $33.15 million to Verizon Communications in what the company is calling the largest cybersquatting judgment ever.
Verizon, which announced the judgment Wednesday, had filed the case against OnlineNIC, a San Francisco-based Internet domain registration company. Verizon had claimed that OnlineNIC used Internet names--663 to be exact--that were chosen to be easily confused with legitimate Verizon names, according to Verizon.
It might be hard, however, for Verizon to actually collect on the judgment, which was a default ruling, or one entered against a defendant who fails to answer a summons. No one appeared in court on OnlineNIC's behalf or in its defense, Verizon said.
We weren't able to get through to OnlineNIC by phone (the line just rang and rang), and an e-mail request was not immediately answered. The company claims on its Web site that it's an ICANN-accredited registrar--but only through 2006. And the site offers a mailing address in Oakland, Calif., not San Francisco.
The award amount was calculated based on $50,000 per domain name, Verizon said.
"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, Verizon vice president and associate general counsel said in a statement. "Verizon intends to continue to take all steps necessary to protect our brand and consumers from Internet frauds and abuses."
Verizon, which says it has won a string of similar cases, is part of a not-for-profit coalition founded last year that fights cybersquatting.