Archive for the 'Trademarks' Category

Is cybersquatting on Michele Bachmann’s name illegal? It’s not clear

October 26, 2011

Among the Republican Party’s presidential contenders, Minnesotan Michele Bachmann has the easiest name to misspell, and cybersquatters are making the most of it.  But it’s unclear whether they risk legal liability under federal anti-cybersquatting law.

As MinnPost and Roll Call report, typing in Bachman2012.com brings up a spoof site where the words “Batsh** Crazy” are prominently displayed.   Going to michelebachman.com will redirect you to change.org’s website seeking sexual-orientation tolerance.  And michele2012.com used to lead to Penthouse magazine.

The federal Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act authorizes lawsuits when a website has a “confusingly similar” to a trademark, including when the trademark is a person name.  But the law requires there to be a trademark.  And while my trademark search shows Michele Bachmann has trademarked her book Michele Bachmann’s America, she appears not to have trademarked her own name.  Oops.

Another requirement is that the cybersquatter must have a “bad faith intent to profit” from the website.  Change.org appears intended to make change, not ching.  Hmm …

Of course, if the Minnesotan sued, a court might read the law differently.  Regardless, Bachmann and the other candidates need to get used to it.  Whitehouse.com used to go to a porn site, and whitehouse.org to a George W. Bush parody site.

But ironically, the bachman2012.com satirists need to do their own proofreading.  While they spelled Michele spelled correctly in the first paragraph of their spoof story, they messed it up in the third.