Register.com wins round in lawsuit against rival

Internet domain name registrar Register.com Inc. won a preliminary injunction against a competitor that it accused of deceiving Register.com customers into transferring their domain-name registrations.

A federal judge last Thursday granted a preliminary injunction against Domain Registry of America Inc. (DROA) to block the company from using alleged marketing tactics that Register.com called deceptive, Register.com said yesterday.

The injunction, following a motion filed by Register.com in September, indicates that there is a strong likelihood Register.com will prevail in its lawsuit, said Brett Lewis, assistant general counsel at New York-based Register.com.

A spokesman for Buffalo, N.Y.-based DROA said he couldn't comment on the injunction for legal reasons.

The case involves alleged domain-name registrar "slamming," which is similar to a tactic in which telecommunications carriers use deceptive practices to lead competitors' customers to switch their long-distance service. In this case, Register.com alleges DROA tried to make domain-name holders believe that their registration provider was DROA when it wasn't and that DROA was affiliated with Register.com.

DROA sent confusing mailings to customers of Register.com about renewing domain registrations that were soon to expire, Lewis said. Customers who called DROA were told the company was affiliated with, had merged with or was part of the same company as Register.com, he added. The company also used Register.com's name on one of its Web pages, he said. Register.com found out about those practices from its customers beginning in February, but the tactics probably began in December 2001, Lewis said.

Among other things, the preliminary injunction imposed by Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York orders DROA to stop taking actions "calculated to or likely to cause third parties to believe that DROA is their existing Internet domain-name registrar or registration service provider if that is not in fact the case" and to stop taking actions that would make third parties think its services are associated with or are endorsed by Register.com.

With the preliminary injunction in place pending a final judgment, the case moves on to determining the merits of Register.com's claims.

"We hope to hit them for a substantial amount of damages" in the millions of dollars, Lewis said. "We want to recoup not only what we feel we've lost in terms of business. ... More important is the hearts of our customers," he added.

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