Designer Skin LLC v. S & L Vitamins, Inc., et al.
Rose Marie Dorer and Forrms, Inc. v. Brian Arel
60 F. Supp. 2d 558 (E.D. Va., Sept. 3, 1999)
Court is presented with issue of, but does not determine, whether a domain name is intangible personal property subject to execution at the request of a judgment creditor to satisfy an outstanding judgment.
Plaintiffs commenced a trademark infringement action alleging that defendant's use of the domain name "writeword.com" infringed plaintiffs' trademark. On defendant's default, the court entered judgment in plaintiffs' favor, permanently enjoining defendant from infringing plaintiffs' mark or using the "writeword.com" domain name and awarding plaintiffs $5000 in damages.
Plaintiffs thereafter sought to acquire defendant's "writeword.com" domain name. Plaintiffs argued that the domain name was subject to a writ of "fieri facias", a Virginian device which authorizes a sheriff to seize and sell property of the judgment debtor and deliver the proceeds to the judgment creditor in satisfaction of an outstanding judgment. Holding that this procedure presented "several problematic issues," the court declined to resolve "the knotty issue of whether a domain name is personal property subject to the lien of fieri facias." Instead, it pointed plaintiffs to the dispute resolution policy of Network Solutions Inc. ("NSI") which the court opined would permit plaintiffs to obtain the relief they sought -- ownership of the domain name. As explained by the court, its judgment holding that the domain name at issue infringed plaintiffs' mark would be sufficient under NSI's policy to cause NSI to either cancel defendant's registration of the domain name, and allow plaintiffs to obtain such registration, or to transfer such registration directly to plaintiffs. If this did not produce adequate relief, plaintiffs were granted leave to renew their motion.
In its decision, the court criticized the rationale underlying a Virginia State Court's determination in Umbro Int'l, Inc. v. 3263851 Canada, Inc., 1999 WL 117760 (Va. Cir. Ct. Feb. 3, 1999) that "a domain name registration is the personal property of the debtor and therefore subject to lien." It also raised, without deciding, "several reasons to doubt that domain names should be treated as personal property subject to judgment liens."
The full text of the court's decision can be found on a web site maintained by Normative.Zusammenhaenge and Klaus Richter.