United Press International has sued a couple of Greek websites in federal court—UPIPhoto.org and UPIPhoto.com—for cybersquatting and trademark infringement.
UPIPhoto.com is actually the website for an organization that calls itself United Photographers International and it’s just what it sounds like, a group of international photographers sharing their photos. It’s been active for years. UPI owns the domain UPIPhotos.com, with an added ‘s’ and they say the likelihood of confusion is too great. UPIPhoto.org is unused at the moment.
UPI has sued the websites, not the owner of the websites, because the news organization says it can’t find an actual person to sue. They claim the domain registrations list fictitious organization names that don’t correspond to any legal entities or persons. Well, they probably should’ve looked a little closer, because United Photographers International’s chairman is listed on its websites, in numerous calls for entries in internationally regarded photo competitions and he’s also listed as the domain’s administrative and technical contact. The website also lists a board of governors and the names of the organization’s co-founders. At least one of these people presumably has control of the domain, right?
What UPI probably should’ve said in its suit, if it wanted to be honest, is that it’s just easier and less costly to sue a website in rem, the legal term for filing suit against a piece of property, than it is to serve and obtain jurisdiction over the foreign people in control of that website. But the idea that they couldn’t find an actual person to sue just doesn’t stand up.
And while they claim that UPIPhoto.com is obviously trying to trade in bad faith on the good will of UPI’s name, United Photographers International actually has… hundreds of members across the world and anyone with a sixth-grade education can look at these sites and see there’s no likelihood of confusing them. But that’s the thing about trademark law, you have to police your marks like a bully or risk losing them when someone actually does infringe.
UPI has asked the court to turn both domains, UPIPhoto.com and UPIPhoto.org, to them.