USA: First case of “domain name theft” before federal courts

Noms de domaineAcme Billing, the US-based online retailer, faces a burgeoning phenomenon, namely, the theft of domain names. Last August, the company found out that 35 of its domain names had been stolen by an anonymous person located in China, who transferred the domain names to acquire them.

On October 21, the company filed suit in the US District court of the Eastern District of Virginia against an anonymous hacker based in China for “knowingly and intentionally access Acme Billing’s domain name management (…) without authorization.”  Acme also accused the hacker of having acted in “bad faith.” To date, Acme Billing has successfully retrieved only 21 of the 35 domain names. For the other 14 domain names, it seems that the hacker has put them for sale.

Domain name theft can be particularly harmful to business, especially for an online sales company, such as Acme Billing. Clearly, by stealing domain names from an online platform, the company is deprived of the principal asset required to conduct its business. The theft of domain names can thus have grievous financial consequences for the turnover of the company, which will be directly and severely impacted. In light of this, Acme Billing’s CEO, Greg Stranahan, stated that “the theft of domain names is a growing form of intellectual property rights violation, with potentially devastating consequences for American businesses.” The decision is highly anticipated.