From The Satanic Temple To South Florida, Two Recent Cybersquatting Cases

Cybersquatting is a nefarious business activity with civil consequences. Legal encyclopedia service Nolo defined cybersquatting as “registering, selling, or using a domain name with the intent of profiting from the goodwill of someone else’s trademark.” Photo credit, licensed.

WEST PALM BEACH, FL – The laws concerning cybersquatting and online defamation join a laundry-list of complex cyber legislation. From the White House to e-gaming, cyberethics continue to be an issue baffling lawmakers, with cases such as the protracted battle between P.G. and Marksman accenting this struggle.  

Law 360 reported on October 7, 2019, that Marksman Security Corp of Florida accused P.G. Security, INC of cybersquatting after P.G. Security allegedly created a false Instagram and registered “confusingly similar website names” that, in turn, directed customers to the P.G. Security site. This accusation has led to a protracted battle in court that has lasted for roughly a year and five months. 

P.G. Securities formerly had a working relationship with Marksman Securities. The Ticktin Law Group, which represents P.G. Security, noted that P.G. Securities made its mistake by creating a mock Instagram page to make light of its bad relationship with Marksman Securities. Statements posted to the account, however, “just happen to be true”, but the intent of the account was informal for a “joke” rather than for the alleged defamation purposes Marksman accuses P.G. of.  

“It was just an internal joke. The account was just a private Instagram page, not intended for the public,” said Peter Ticktin, the lawyer representing P.G. Security. 

Yet, the mock statements on the post just happened to be factual, according to Ticktin, and so Marksman Securities sued P.G. Security for defamation. 

Peter Ticktin stated that the entire case centers around the character of Marksman Securities, which he noted having a “bad” track record, as the truthfulness of some mock Instagram posts “just happened to be true.”

The lines of what is admissible and what is illegal under the Anti-cybersquatting act get blurred in cases where digital pranks are swept up in the complexity of cyber law, and of character-based complaints. Laws protecting freedom of speech are held to a high scrutiny side by side laws meant to protect digital identity claims. 

A similar case to the one out of Florida was dismissed this month in Washington State. 

Infosecurity News reported on March 2 that the Satanic Temple in Washington State brought a claim of cybersquatting to the Washington Chapter court. 

In that case filed by the United Federation of Churches, LLC, which does business as The Satanic Temple, the company filed a lawsuit against former members of the organization accusing them of erasing content from the websites and social accounts of the Temple. The Temple claimed that, in March 2020, former site administrators ‘hacked’ into Facebook and removed page administrators from the social media accounts. 

Ultimately, a federal judge in Washington State dismissed the case. Case No. 2:20-cv-00509-RAJ was filed on February 26 and was dismissed on the same day. A copy of the court opinions was obtained by Bloomberg Law. 

Honorable Judge Richard A Jones ruled to grant a motion to dismiss in the favor of the defendants. Jones’ ruling described the background of the motion as follows: 

“The Satanic Temple has its own Facebook page. In fact, it has two. It also has a Twitter page and a Google Email account. Former members of The Satanic Temple, as approved administrators, took control of the accounts, and The Satanic Temple is now bringing suit. 

A complete copy of the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act is available via Harvard Law. 

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