Someday, maybe a whole week will go by without the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club making headlines. Maybe next week. This one is just too good.
The Hells Angels Motorcycle Corporation, a California corporation, is suing a Visalia, California woman named Fawn Myers; a man named Terry Myers; the Arizona based web host GoDaddy.com.; and ten John Does for cyberpiracy; trademark infringement; false description of origin; dilution; and unfair competition. The Angels are also demanding a jury trial.
The Hells Who
The lawsuit was initiated on February 10th, filed in the Federal Eastern District of California Court in Fresno on the 11th and became public yesterday after John Ellis of the Fresno Bee broke the story.
The Hells Angels Motorcycle Corporation (HAMC) is described in the suit as, “a non-profit mutual benefit corporation organized and existing under the laws of the State of California.” “Authorized charters of the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club” are described as “licensees” of the corporation.
The Angels, as everyone but our Martian friends know, have long been associated with both the initials HA and the number 81. The HAMC maintains that both have been trademarks of the corporation for “over twenty years.” For any Martians that make it onto the jury, the suit also explains that, “Plaintiff’s ‘81′ mark is a numeric metonym for the initials ‘H’ and ‘A’ which are the 8th and 1st letters of the English alphabet, thereby signifying Hells Angels.”
Ms. Myers, the defendant, is described as “engaged in (the) business of buying and selling collectible items and domain name registrations, primarily through the internet auction site eBay.com….”
And, Myers is now being sued because on February 7th she offered 20 domain names for sale. The domains had all been registered with GoDaddy.com and all the domains incorporated either “HA” or “81.”
The full list of domains Myers registered with GoDaddy includes: HAMC.COM; HA-MC.INFO; ALL81.COM; USA81.COM; 81USA.COM; 81-MC.COM; 81USA.INFO; 81-MC.INFO; 81MC.INFO; 81AZ.COM; 81CA.COM; 81CT.COM; 81EU.COM; 81FL.COM; 81HI.COM; 81NJ.COM; 81NV.COM; 81NY.COM; 81OC.COM; 81TX.COM; 81UT.COM; and 81WA.COM.
On eBay, Myers explained that she hadn’t made the association between the abbreviation HA and the metonym 81 when she registered the domains, only shortly before she decided to sell them. “I was contacted by a person outside the United States interested in purchasing 81EU.com for a European web site,” Myers told potential buyers. She explained, “A brandable four or five letter dot com domain name now days (sic) goes for $3800 all the way to $1,000,000 +.”
And, in her eBay pitch, Myers also reveals that she understands that HA is a “brand,” by which she seems to mean a trademark, of the Hells Angels. “First off, I would like to say I have no HA affiliation,” she says right at the beginning, using the disputed mark “HA” to mean Hells Angels.
Letting The Lawyers Handle It
The corporate Hells Angels told eBay to stop the auction on February 8th. The online auction site complied. Myers then offered the domain names for sale by auction on GoDaddy. And, that is what prompted the Angels’ suit.
The suit asks that Myers, GoDaddy and any as yet unnamed business partners be enjoined from selling the domains: that the defendants should forfeit any profits Myers has already made; and that Myers, who probably does not have any money and GoDaddy which certainly does, should be liable for $2 million actual damages and triple that amount in punitive damages.
Really, Myers doesn’t stand a chance. Right off the bat, she is blatantly in violation of a Federal statute that outlaws bad faith attempts to profit from domain names that would most logically be associated with someone else.
Even if it were available, for example, it would be illegal to register something like HarleyDavidson.com with the intent of eventually selling that domain back to the motorcycle manufacturer. It is called “cyber squatting” and it as illegal as identity theft.
Who’s Next? Hebrews?
Terry Myers, told the Bee that he and Fawn Myers are the real victims. He protested that the domain HAMC.ORG is registered to the Hebrew Academy of Morris County, New Jersey and the name HAMC.COM is owned by the Heart of America Medical Center in Rugby, North Dakota. He implies that if the Hells Angels are allowed to win this suit they will probably be going after Hebrew schools and Medical centers next.
Which raises another obvious question. What do you think the odds are that this guy graduated from Harvard Law? Or do you think he learned most of what he knows about the lawsuits from TV?
Myers also told the Bee that he has already tried to give the domain names to the Hells Angels as a gift if they will just agree to withdraw their suit. But so far nobody has called him back.