Pinterest, inarguably one of the fastest rising stars of the social media world this year (and the subject of a FairWinds Perspectives study this past spring), filed a comprehensive lawsuit against Chinese cybersquatter Qian Jin, citing a host of violations related to trademark infringement and cyberpiracy. The lawsuit, filed in a San Francisco court, accuses Qian of registering dozens of Pinterest-related domain names, using a number of different ccTLDs and misspellings of the Pinterest brand name, and attempting to trademark some of the names in both the United States and China.
The domains were registered over a six-month period in the second half of 2011, as Pinterest was just beginning to really hit its stride and gain widespread popularity. According to the lawyers for the Bay Area company, Pinterest is just the latest company in a long line of social networks that Qian has targeted. The lawsuit refers to Qian as a “serial cybersquatter who has registered and owns hundreds of infringing domain names,” including some related to Facebook, Google, Twitter, and Foursquare.
The lawsuit seeks damages and an order preventing Qian or any associated parties from using the Pinterest name. Additionally, the company wants the trademark applications in U.S. courts for “Pinterest” and Pinterests” thrown out.
Although the practice of cybersquatting almost as old as the domain name system itself, squatters constantly seek new ways to capitalize on emerging trends or habits to make money. Cybersquatters like Qian, for example, are actively targeting rising tech companies that didn’t have the foresight to procure potentially valuable domain names when they first set up shop. This lawsuit will certainly be a lesson for Pinterest, as the company will want to ensure that they won’t have to spend this amount of time or money on similar cases in the future.
Other brands, especially those with explosive success like Pinterest, should look at this as a cautionary tale. Keeping tabs on your domain portfolio from the outset will save you from having to go through legal battles to prevent opportunistic third parties from benefitting off of and potentially tarnishing your brand.
Given Qian’s history of cybersquatting and Pinterest’s rights to the intellectual property in question, they should come out on top in this case, but legal battles like this are easily preventable with forward thinking.
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