Google’s Fruitless Attempts To Secure Goggle.com

Comment

Last August, Google filed a complaint with the National Arbitration Forum to finally get a hold of the domains names goggle.com, goggle.net and goggle.org (don’t visit these). Yesterday, the organization dismissed its claims.

That doesn’t mean the owner of the domain names – a shady company called Goggle.com Inc. – should break out the champagne just yet, though.

The Internet search and advertising giant’s complaint in itself is interesting. Apparently, Google isn’t merely claiming that the disputed domain names are ‘confusingly similar’ to its trademark and that they currently lead to a website that hosts a phishing scam, but also that it had previously entered into a confidential settlement agreement with the former owner of the domain names.

I’m lifting the relevant parts from the Forum’s decision (which you can also find here) and copying them below, with emphasis added. Note that the complainant is Google; the respondent is Goggle.com Inc:

Complainant states that it had previously filed a UDRP proceeding against the original registrant of the disputed domain names. Complainant states that the parties entered into a confidential settlement agreement and the proceeding was dismissed. Complainant further states that since the domain names have been subsequently transferred to a third-party with whom it has no prior dealings, the agreement was not set forth in the Complaint. Those trademark rights, in any event, predate the transfer to Respondent.

Complainant contends that the disputed domain names are confusingly similar to Complainant’s GOOGLE mark. Those domain names contain a misspelled version of the GOOGLE mark where the domain names simply replace the letter “o” with the letter “g” and add a generic top-level domain (“gTLD”).

Complainant contends that it has not authorized Respondent to use or register the disputed domain names. Further, Complainant argues that Respondent is not commonly known by the disputed domain names even though the WHOIS information indicates that the registrant is “Goggle.com, Inc.” because an Internet search does not return any results for that company name as a legitimate business.

Complainant further argues that Respondent cannot claim to be offering legitimate goods and services through the domain names because it is diverting Internet users to a website that intends to copy the look and feel of Complainant’s website and deceiving users into signing up for expensive text messaging plans. Complainant contends that such use is invariably a “phishing” scam in which Respondent receives the personal and financial information of unsuspecting Internet users, and turns around to turn a profit with such information. Further, Complainant submits screen shot evidence to show that the website resolving from the domain name looks and feels just like Complainant’s official website while using a close variation of Complainant’s logos.

Complainant alleges that Respondent gained possession of the disputed domain names in 2007 or early 2008. Complainant argues that Respondent acquired the domain names in order to effectuate some kind of phishing scheme in which Internet users are made offers for devices such as an “iPad 2” so long as they give personal information and sign up for text message plans for cellular phones.

Goggle Inc., meanwhile, asserts that it purchased the domain names in good faith and on reliance of a previously signed ‘Co-existence Agreement’, which would mean rights transferred to the company when they bought the domain names.

They also state that ‘goggle’ is a real word that has nothing to do with Google’s trademark, and that Google “does not have an exclusive monopoly on the term on the Internet”. They also note that Google’s possible motive in bringing this UDRP claim is “that it has recently launched a new mobile service called Google Goggles”. From the NAF decision (emphasis mine):

Respondent asserts that it purchased and registered the domain names in good faith and on reliance of the Co-existence Agreement. Respondent attaches the Co-existence Agreement (between Complainant and Knowledge Associates, the original registrant) and a Purchase and Assignment Agreement (between the original registrant and a company identified as 1158860 Alberta, Ltd).

Further, Respondent submits a letter, which was sent to Complainant before the purchase giving Complainant the right of first refusal as required under the terms of the Co-existence Agreement. Respondent states that it purchased the domain names from the original registrant based upon the Co-existence Agreement that was expressly placed within the Purchase and Assignment agreement, and that it has followed the required sections of that agreement. Lastly, Respondent states that the very terms of the Co-existence Agreement expressly and specifically contemplated such a future sale of the domain names and permitted such, so long as certain aspects of the agreement were also agreed to by the new purchaser.

Respondent argues that the domain names all contain the separate and unique term “goggle,” and cannot be found to be confusingly similar to Complainant’s good mark. Further, Respondent references the Co-existence Agreement that states, “the word goggle will not be considered as a misspelling of the word google.”

Respondent argues that the term “goggle” of the domain names is a real and separate word from Complainant’s mark, therefore permitting the Panel to find that the domain names are not confusingly similar to Complainant’s mark.

Respondent also references the Complaint that states that “the manner in which Respondent is using the Domain Names” is the issue here. Respondent contends that such a statement is an admission by Complainant that the domain names are not similar to the GOOGLE mark, and that Complainant is trying to prove confusing similarity by bringing in Respondent’s use of the domain name instead of an objective analysis of the mark’s and the domain names’ similarities.

Respondent argues that, contrary to Complainant’s assertions, it is in fact known as “Goggle” because its corporate name is “Goggle.com, Inc.,” and that it has carried out business under this name for nearly four years. Respondent submits its corporate registration as part of its annexes to show that it is in fact registered as a business under the “Goggle.com, Inc.” name. Respondent further notes that its banking information is under the “Goggle.com Inc.” name and that it receives all payments from third-party advertisers under its corporate name.

Respondent contends that it is using the disputed domain names in the same manner as the previous registrant did for advertising and marketing solicitations. Respondent argues that such uses were known, accepted, and condoned by Complainant before it signed the Co-existence Agreement with the prior registrant. Respondent notes that it is able to conduct the same type of business activity under the disputed domain names because the Co-existence Agreement that Complainant signed contemplated such use by future purchasers.

Respondent contends that Complainant’s recent objection about the recent use of “an arguably similar graphic logo” does not nullify Respondent’s long-standing use of the domain names for its advertising and marketing solicitations. Respondent also states that it removed the allegedly infringing logo from its website since that time, and that it has only been used for a short period of time. Respondent maintains that it has not violated the terms of the Co-existence Agreement, and that it has rights in the domain names.

Respondent also argues that the term “goggle” of the disputed domain names is common and generic, and therefore, Complainant does not have an exclusive monopoly on the term on the Internet.

Respondent alleges that Complainant has acted in bad faith and is engaging in reverse domain name hijacking by initiating this dispute. Respondent contends that Complainant is attempting to deprive Respondent, the rightful, registered holder of the disputed domain names, of its rights to use those names.

Respondent contends that Complainant buried the fact of the existence of the Co-existence Agreement. The only reference to the fact of its existence was hidden away in the only footnote to its entire 15-page Complaint.

Respondent notes that the terms of the Co-existence Agreement were all followed, and that Complainant had the right to purchase the domain names per that agreement and chose to let Respondent register them instead. Respondent further notes that Complainant’s possible motive in bringing this UDRP claim is that it has recently launched a new mobile service called “Google Goggles,” and wishes to use the domain names for its own gain.

Therefore, Respondent contends that Complainant knew at the time of filing this Complaint that Respondent did not register or use the domain names in bad faith.

The three-person National Arbitration Forum panel that made the decision to dismiss the case aren’t necessarily agreeing with either party. Rather, the panel says it declines jurisdiction in the matter and suggests national courts are better equipped to handle such ‘contractual or business disputes’.

I suspect Google will indeed be taking this to court next.

To be continued, sadly.

More TechCrunch

After Apple loosened its App Store guidelines to permit game emulators, the retro game emulator Delta — an app 10 years in the making — hit the top of the…

Adobe comes after indie game emulator Delta for copying its logo

Meta is once again taking on its competitors by developing a feature that borrows concepts from others — in this case, BeReal and Snapchat. The company is developing a feature…

Meta’s latest experiment borrows from BeReal’s and Snapchat’s core ideas

Welcome to Startups Weekly! We’ve been drowning in AI news this week, with Google’s I/O setting the pace. And Elon Musk rages against the machine.

Startups Weekly: It’s the dawning of the age of AI — plus,  Musk is raging against the machine

IndieBio’s Bay Area incubator is about to debut its 15th cohort of biotech startups. We took special note of a few, which were making some major, bordering on ludicrous, claims…

IndieBio’s SF incubator lineup is making some wild biotech promises

YouTube TV has announced that its multiview feature for watching four streams at once is now available on Android phones and tablets. The Android launch comes two months after YouTube…

YouTube TV’s ‘multiview’ feature is now available on Android phones and tablets

Featured Article

Two Santa Cruz students uncover security bug that could let millions do their laundry for free

CSC ServiceWorks provides laundry machines to thousands of residential homes and universities, but the company ignored requests to fix a security bug.

9 hours ago
Two Santa Cruz students uncover security bug that could let millions do their laundry for free

OpenAI’s Superalignment team, responsible for developing ways to govern and steer “superintelligent” AI systems, was promised 20% of the company’s compute resources, according to a person from that team. But…

OpenAI created a team to control ‘superintelligent’ AI — then let it wither, source says

TechCrunch Disrupt 2024 is just around the corner, and the buzz is palpable. But what if we told you there’s a chance for you to not just attend, but also…

Harness the TechCrunch Effect: Host a Side Event at Disrupt 2024

Decks are all about telling a compelling story and Goodcarbon does a good job on that front. But there’s important information missing too.

Pitch Deck Teardown: Goodcarbon’s $5.5M seed deck

Slack is making it difficult for its customers if they want the company to stop using its data for model training.

Slack under attack over sneaky AI training policy

A Texas-based company that provides health insurance and benefit plans disclosed a data breach affecting almost 2.5 million people, some of whom had their Social Security number stolen. WebTPA said…

Healthcare company WebTPA discloses breach affecting 2.5 million people

Featured Article

Microsoft dodges UK antitrust scrutiny over its Mistral AI stake

Microsoft won’t be facing antitrust scrutiny in the U.K. over its recent investment into French AI startup Mistral AI.

11 hours ago
Microsoft dodges UK antitrust scrutiny over its Mistral AI stake

Ember has partnered with HSBC in the U.K. so that the bank’s business customers can access Ember’s services from their online accounts.

Embedded finance is still trendy as accounting automation startup Ember partners with HSBC UK

Kudos uses AI to figure out consumer spending habits so it can then provide more personalized financial advice, like maximizing rewards and utilizing credit effectively.

Kudos lands $10M for an AI smart wallet that picks the best credit card for purchases

The EU’s warning comes after Microsoft failed to respond to a legally binding request for information that focused on its generative AI tools.

EU warns Microsoft it could be fined billions over missing GenAI risk info

The prospects for troubled banking-as-a-service startup Synapse have gone from bad to worse this week after a United States Trustee filed an emergency motion on Wednesday.  The trustee is asking…

A US Trustee wants troubled fintech Synapse to be liquidated via Chapter 7 bankruptcy, cites ‘gross mismanagement’

U.K.-based Seraphim Space is spinning up its 13th accelerator program, with nine participating companies working on a range of tech from propulsion to in-space manufacturing and space situational awareness. The…

Seraphim’s latest space accelerator welcomes nine companies

OpenAI has reached a deal with Reddit to use the social news site’s data for training AI models. In a blog post on OpenAI’s press relations site, the company said…

OpenAI inks deal to train AI on Reddit data

X users will now be able to discover posts from new Communities that are trending directly from an Explore tab within the section.

X pushes more users to Communities

For Mark Zuckerberg’s 40th birthday, his wife got him a photoshoot. Zuckerberg gives the camera a sly smile as he sits amid a carefully crafted re-creation of his childhood bedroom.…

Mark Zuckerberg’s makeover: Midlife crisis or carefully crafted rebrand?

Strava announced a slew of features, including AI to weed out leaderboard cheats, a new ‘family’ subscription plan, dark mode and more.

Strava taps AI to weed out leaderboard cheats, unveils ‘family’ plan, dark mode and more

We all fall down sometimes. Astronauts are no exception. You need to be in peak physical condition for space travel, but bulky space suits and lower gravity levels can be…

Astronauts fall over. Robotic limbs can help them back up.

Microsoft will launch its custom Cobalt 100 chips to customers as a public preview at its Build conference next week, TechCrunch has learned. In an analyst briefing ahead of Build,…

Microsoft’s custom Cobalt chips will come to Azure next week

What a wild week for transportation news! It was a smorgasbord of news that seemed to touch every sector and theme in transportation.

Tesla keeps cutting jobs and the feds probe Waymo

Sony Music Group has sent letters to more than 700 tech companies and music streaming services to warn them not to use its music to train AI without explicit permission.…

Sony Music warns tech companies over ‘unauthorized’ use of its content to train AI

Winston Chi, Butter’s founder and CEO, told TechCrunch that “most parties, including our investors and us, are making money” from the exit.

GrubMarket buys Butter to give its food distribution tech an AI boost

The investor lawsuit is related to Bolt securing a $30 million personal loan to Ryan Breslow, which was later defaulted on.

Bolt founder Ryan Breslow wants to settle an investor lawsuit by returning $37 million worth of shares

Meta, the parent company of Facebook, launched an enterprise version of the prominent social network in 2015. It always seemed like a stretch for a company built on a consumer…

With the end of Workplace, it’s fair to wonder if Meta was ever serious about the enterprise

X, formerly Twitter, turned TweetDeck into X Pro and pushed it behind a paywall. But there is a new column-based social media tool in town, and it’s from Instagram Threads.…

Meta Threads is testing pinned columns on the web, similar to the old TweetDeck

As part of 2024’s Accessibility Awareness Day, Google is showing off some updates to Android that should be useful to folks with mobility or vision impairments. Project Gameface allows gamers…

Google expands hands-free and eyes-free interfaces on Android