On January 12, 2012, ICANN, the Internet’s domain name registration watch dog, began accepting applications for new generic Top-Level Domains (gTLDs) to add to those already in existence, including .com, .net, .biz and others. Under the new scheme, any company can apply for a gTLD, thereby expanding the domain name system (DNS). Ultimately, this expansion will change the Internet forever. Each new gTLD poses an incremental risk for trademark owners who are already under heavy assault in cyberspace from cybersquatting (registering, trafficking in, or using a domain name with bad faith intent to profit from the goodwill of a trademark owner), brandjacking (assuming the online identity of another entity for the purposes of trading on another’s brand equity), and typosquatting (registering URLs with common misspellings) by those seeking to generate illicit profits. According to the Coalition Against Domain Name Abuse (CADNA), cybersquatting already costs trademark owners more than $1 billion each year due to lost sales, lost goodwill, and increased enforcement costs. However, with a major increase in gTLDs, many corporations fear an expansion in expensive litigation to enforce their brands and trademarks.
Cybercrime has increased tremendously in the digital economy. “According to the American Society for Industrial Security, American businesses [are] losing $250 billion a year from intellectual property theft since the mid-1990’s.” There is a clear and growing threat of Chinese industrial espionage targeted at American companies. In a recent case, a Michigan couple was accused of stealing $40 million worth of trade secrets from General Motors and selling them to a Chinese car maker. Aside from hackers, the threat also exists within organizations from insiders. A recent study commissioned by Cisco found that “[i]n the hands of uninformed, careless, or disgruntled employees, every device that accesses the network or stores data is a potential risk to intellectual property or sensitive customer data.”
Tory Burch LLC (“Tory Burch”), the makers of women’s apparel, designer shoes and fashion accessories, recently obtained a $164 million damages award against forty-one defendants accused of selling counterfeit versions of its products through numerous websites. This decision confers the largest award ever granted to a fashion company in a counterfeiting action.
On October 14, 2010, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas granted what is reportedly the largest judgment ever awarded in an action involving on-line counterfeiting. In Farouk Systems, Inc. v. Eyou Int’l Trading Co., Judge Kenneth M. Hoyt entered a default judgment and permanent injunction against more than seventy defendants, who were operating an Internet counterfeiting ring out of China. The judgment required that each of the defendants pay Farouk statutory damages of $4 million, resulting in an award of approximately $300 million. In addition to being significant because of the amount of the damages awarded, this decision is noteworthy for the pragmatic approach that the court took to ensure that the relief awarded to the plaintiff would be meaningful.
With the U.S. economy still reeling from the aftershock of what is now known as the “Great Recession,” companies large and small are evaluating cloud computing as a means of reducing IT costs. The National Institute of Standards and Technologies (“NIST”) and the Cloud Security Alliance have defined cloud computing as a model for on-demand network access to a shared pool of computing resources over the internet, namely software applications, data servers, networks and other services. Just as businesses and consumers now pay for gas, electricity and other utilities, cloud enthusiasts predict that the cloud will be sold on demand as a pure IT service.
Is a technology provider liable for direct copyright infringement when it provides the means for infringement instructed by its users? In the Cablevision case, Cartoon Networks LLLP v. CSC Holdings, Inc., 536 F.3d 121 (2d Cir. 2008), the Second Circuit endorsed a line of cases holding that the provider is not liable absent “volitional conduct” that causes the copying to take place. Two recent district court decisions in the Southern District of New York appear to have applied this rule in seemingly inconsistent fashion.