In a victory against cybersquatting, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals won a suit earlier this month against Internet entrepreneur Michael Doughney for using the peta.org domain name.
Doughney, co-founder of Web hosting company Digex, registered the site in September 1995 as an acronym for People Eating Tasty Animals. The suit was filed in 1996 after Doughney, posing as a nonprofit, bought the Peta.org name from Network Solutions Inc. — before PETA had a chance to register the name. Only nonprofit groups are entitled to the .org domain.
“We're glad we won this site [address] to show the public that animals on factory farms go through the grist mill before they end up on the grill,” said Jenny Woods, spokeswoman for PETA, Norfolk, VA.
The judgement found that Doughney infringed on PETA's trademark and diluted the value of that mark by using it. He also violated the AntiCybersquatting Consumer Protection Act by using the PETA trademark for commercial benefit.
“Doughney had the requisite bad faith intent,” the judgment said, adding that he “clearly intended to confuse, mislead, and divert Internet users into accessing his Web site, which contained information antithetical and therefore harmful to the goodwill represented by the PETA mark.”
The judgment added that Doughney “has registered other Internet domain names which are identical or similar to either marks or names of famous people or organizations he opposes.”
Based in College Park, MD, Doughney has said he would appeal the decision, according to Woods. Doughney, who is now retired, said he was only parodying PETA — an action he claimed was protected speech under the First Amendment, according to media reports quoting his attorney. At press time, a search for peta.org did not produce the site.
The legal decision was issued on June 12 in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District in Virginia.
Founded in 1980, PETA is the world's largest animal rights organization. It has more than 600,000 members.