Most of the time, the motive and purpose of cybersquatting is to occupy a domain name so similar to one for an existing business that the business will pay what is essentially a ransom to own it. Other times, it’s a vehicle for phishing and identity theft, but in the situation Adidas finds itself in, cybersquatting is just the beginning of its problems.
The former Reebok owner was in a Florida federal court last week to file suit against 83 defendants, none of whom have names, only URLs designed to lure potential shoppers into their knockoff marketplaces through search engine optimization.
Names for defendants include adidassneakers.shop, yeezyadidasus.com, argentinaadidas.com, 2022nflshop.com, cheapjerseysupplychina.com, soccerjerseyzone.com, and all 83 are being sued for trademark counterfeiting and infringement, false designation of origin, cybersquatting, and common law trademark infringement.
In court documents, Adidas says the registrars of the domain names are located in multiple countries, including the U.S.
The complaint does not give a specific reason as to why it is being filed in Florida, except to say that the sites are all accessible in Florida.
A visit to any of the still-operating domains on the list will take a prospective consumer to a marketplace either masquerading as an authentic Adidas site, or selling products with Adidas labeling on it that the real Adidas says are knockoffs.
“Defendants are part of an ongoing scheme to create and maintain an illegal marketplace enterprise on the World Wide Web, which confuses consumers regarding the source of Defendants’ goods for profit, and expands the marketplace for illegal, counterfeit versions of Plaintiffs’ branded goods while shrinking the legitimate marketplace for Plaintiffs’ genuine branded goods,” the complaint reads. “[They] will likely continue to maintain and grow their illegal marketplace enterprise at Plaintiffs’ expense unless preliminarily and permanently enjoined.”
Adidas is asking for the court to issue an injunction to cease and desist their practices, remove any and all domain names used by the defendants, order e-mail providers to halt service to those used by the defendants. It’s also asking for unspecified damages and legal fees.
Some of the websites listed in the suit are no longer operational, but many portend to be representing Adidas directly in graphics and language in the About Us sections of their websites.
“At Adidas Shop we love every passion and interest on Earth because it is a reference to your UNIQUENESS.And to spread exactly that…is our core vision,” says theadidasus.com.
“At adidas, we are rebellious optimists driven by action, with a desire to shape a better future together,” says usaadidas.top.
At least 10 of the websites listed include the name ‘Yeezy,’ referencing Adidas’ collaboration brand with former partner Kanye West.
Yeezysnkrs.com claims that its shoes aren’t knockoffs, but rather excess footwear made in Nike and Adidas factories “just in case” they need to “replace the rejected pairs after they fail to pass quality inspection.”
Yeezyadidasus.com says, “The reason we can offer you our hand selected items, for such low prices, is because we didn’t just settle for a quick buck, we took the time and effort to make factory direct deals and import our products directly. The cost we save by doing this is the cost you save on our products. After all, it’s only fair, right?”
Several of the URLs listed as defendants that include the word ‘Yeezy’ are aliases for the same site as Yeezyadidasus.com.
Getting the court to agree with its legal position isn’t likely Adidas’ biggest hurdle in this case; enforcing any orders the court may hand down certainly could be.
Even if the court orders all of the objectionable domain names be abolished, there is little legal leverage available to prevent the defendants—especially those on foreign soil—from registering new domains spelled slightly differently, which can be as effective on search engines, even if misspelled.
Hence, names like theadidasus.com, which is among the defendants listed, could easily change its name to myadidasus.com, for example, and perhaps find as much traffic on Google, Bing and the like.
“Adidas expends significant monetary and other resources on Internet marketing and consumer education, including search engine optimization (“SEO”) and search engine marketing (“SEM”) strategies,” Adidas writes in the complaint. “Those strategies allow adidas and its authorized retailers to educate consumers fairly and legitimately about the value associated with the adidas Marks and the goods sold thereunder. Similarly, many of Defendants’ websites are indexed on search engines and compete directly with Plaintiffs for space and consumer attention in search results.”
Adidas has had a busy autumn trying to take out URLs.
In September, Adidas sued the website moliydress.com and the now-abandoned zfllb.com on similar charges. As in the case of the 86 websites, Adidas brought the lawsuit in Florida, again with no specific reason given. Moliydress.com, in its About Us info lists a phone number with, ironically, the country code +86, which is mainland China.
In this case, the plaintiff’s demands were similar to the 86 URLs, with some differences, including a request that the defendants pay $2 million per each “counterfeit trademark used and product type offered for sale or sold.”
Adidas declined to comment on either matter.