This lawsuit is getting national news coverage. As a trademark case, if plaintiff’s allegations are correct, this sounds pretty cut and dry. Plaintiff is the DELTA ZETA sorority, and alleges ownership of the DELTA ZETA trademark for among other things, sorority services. Defendants allegedly maintained a rental establishment near a college, under the name DELTA ZETA HOUSE. It allegedly used DELTA ZETA trademarks to suggest a connection with the sorority, and somehow giving the impression that agreeing to rent in the house was somehow part of pledging to the sorority.
Interesting domain name side note: Defendant allegedly said to plaintiff pre-filing, that unless plaintiff paid defendant $1000, defendant would sell the name, probably to someone in China. Plaintiff sued, defendant alleges that it de-registered the name, and now deltazetahouse.com shows Chinese text. As of 2 pm EST today, whois doesn’t show a newly created registration (but there are time lags in whois updates). Also, the file of the ‘new’ website is “Delta Nu Sorority,’ a name that defendant had indicated that it would use. So there may not have been an arms-length transfer of control.
There are two separate issues – one is defendant’s liability if it did in fact de-register the name without receiving compensation. The other is: what steps a potential plaintiff can take, if faced with a threat that the potential defendant will transfer or de-register the name. One thought occurs: file under seal, and immediately obtain what’s referred to as a registration certificate from the registrar. The certificate ‘represents’ control of the domain name, and is then deposited with the court.