If there was ever clear evidence that we're rapidly losing our right to
express ourselves, we just got it in the mail.
As many of you know, the new name for the company formed by the merger
of Bell Atlantic and GTE is Verizon. You may have already started to see
ads for Verizon Wireless. Soon, this will be the name of the local phone
company for millions of people.
We decided it would be a good idea to register verizonsucks.com because,
if our experience with past phone companies is any indication, Verizon
will in all probability be thought of in this way in the near future.
But we didn't move fast enough. Apparently, Verizon realized this
was going to happen and they went and had their lawyers register
verizonsucks.com themselves! (The logic of owning a site that says your
business sucks really escapes us.)
We did the next best thing and registered verizonREALLYsucks.com. We
kept the domain in reserve for when we might need it. That day has come.
On Friday, a certified letter was sent to 2600 by Bell Atlantic demanding
that we turn this domain over to them or face the consequences. In an
absurd twisting of logic, they claimed that we were violating the new
"Anticybersquatting Act" by owning this domain. This corporate abuse
makes it quite clear how such laws turn into an open invitation to
trample on the rights of individuals. When written, this law was designed
to protect companies against those who would register their name and
hold it for ransom. But this is a statement, an OPINION, one which in no way
would be confused with the actual name of the company.
The tactic is clear. Verizon intends to go after anyone who criticizes
them on the net, abusing the intent of this law to accomplish their goal. We
cannot allow this. We call on INDIVIDUALS around the world to criticize
Verizon on as many domain names as possible and to exercise your rights
to free speech aggressively since we are in real danger of having them
wiped from the net entirely.
Just for the fun of it, we've gone and registered
look forward to seeing their legal threat for THAT one. (This domain
uses the new 63 character maximum length name - some browsers may
complain about this.)
We understand that corporate threats can be very intimidating and effective.
If you find yourself in a position where your right of expression is
being challenged and you don't have the means to defend yourself, you
can turn the offending domain name over to us and we will stand up for
We find ourselves facing no fewer than five lawsuits at the moment in
what can only be interpreted as a last ditch attempt by corporate America
to take us out of the picture once and for all. Please help us by
showing your support and spreading the word. We will not and cannot back
down on such an important matter.
Sarah B. Deutsch
Vice President and Chief Intellectual Property Counsel
Bell Atlantic Network Services, Inc.
1320 North Court House Road
Arlington, Virginia 22201
703 974-8450 - Telephone No.
703-974-0783 - Facsimile
May 5, 2000
VIA CERTIFIED MAIL -
RETURN RECEIPT REQUEST
EMAIL ADDRESS: email@example.com
Mr. Emmanuel Goldstein
P.O. Box 848
Middle Island, NY 11953
RE: Unauthorized Use of the Verizon Name and Mark in the Domain Names
I represent Bell Atlantic Corporation (hereinafter “Bell Atlantic”) and its subsidiaries, which own the rights to use the BELL and BELL ATLANTIC trademarks. Bell Atlantic owns the “VERIZON” trade mark and service mark. It has recently come to my attention that you have registered the domain name VERIZONREALLYSUCKS.COM incorporating the “VERIZON” mark referenced above. This letter is to inform you that your registration and/or use of these domain names infringes Bell Atlantic’s valuable trademark rights in the “Verizon” mark and violates the new Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act (the “Anticybersquatting Act”).
Accordingly, unless you immediately agree to take the steps set forth below, including ceasing any use of the “Verizon” and “Bell Atlantic” marks and transferring the domain name VERIZONREALLYSUCKS.COM to Bell Atlantic, Bell Atlantic intends to proceed under the federal Trademark Act, including the Anticybersquatting Act, by filing suit to protect its rights in federal court.
Bell Atlantic is the exclusive owner of the “VERIZON” mark and name and has licensed the “VERIZON” mark and name to a wireless telecommunications company named “Verizon Wireless” that combines the U.S. wireless properties of Bell Atlantic and Vodafone AirTouch. “Verizon Wireless” –the country’s largest wireless communications provider commenced business earlier this month, and has been the subject of an intensive media campaign including television, radio and print advertising. Bell Atlantic has also announced, on the Web site www.verizon.com that, pending FCC approval, “Verizon” will become the name of the new company formed by its merger with GTE Corporation. Our client is investing substantial sums of money in promoting the “Verizon” brand and company. On behalf of Bell Atlantic, its agents have registered hundreds of domain names incorporating “Verizon” and variations thereof. Through these efforts, “Verizon” is rapidly becoming famous nationwide, and the public is already associating this name and mark exclusively with our client and the telecommunications services that it offers. In short, such use and/or registration by your company constitutes acts of trademark infringement, unfair competition and dilution in violation of Sections 32(a), 43(a) and 43(c) of the federal Trademark Act, 15 U.S.C. §§1114, 1125(a) and (c).
Moreover, your registration and/or use of the domain name VERIZONREALLYSUCKS.COM also violates the new Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act, enacted into law on November 29, 1999, and codified in Section 43 (d) of the federal Trademark Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1125 (d). This new legislation makes explicit what has been implicit in the federal Trademark Act: it expressly prohibits the registration of a domain name confusingly similar to or dilutive of a mark. Specifically, this new law makes illegal the bad faith misappropriation of trademarks as domain names. Relief available under this law may include forfeiture of an infringer’s domain name, transfer of that name to the rightful trademark owner, and awards of actual damages, statutory damages of up to $100,000 per domain name, costs and attorneys fees. Bell Atlantic would like to resolve this matter amicably, without resort to litigation, but only if you immediately comply with Bell Atlantic’s demands. By no later than May 22, 2000, please (1) complete and return to my attention, by overnight mail, the enclosed form, fully completed, signed and notarized, transferring the domain name VERIZONREALLYSUCKS.COM to Bell Atlantic; and (2) verify in writing that you will permanently cease, and refrain from all future use of, the mark “Verizon” or any mark or name confusingly similar thereto, whether as a domain name, company name, trademark or otherwise. If we do not hear from you by that date, Bell Atlantic will take all necessary actions to protect its valuable trademark rights.
Nothing in this letter should be construed as a waiver, relinquishment or election of rights or remedies by Bell Atlantic. Bell Atlantic expressly reserves all rights and remedies under all applicable federal and state laws.
Sarah B. Deutsch
Vice President and Chief
Intellectual Property Counsel
bcc: TAC members
View the letter [PDF] [TXT] [MS Word]