Whether Solicitation of Funds Amounts to a Bad Faith Intent to Profit Is an Issue of Fact; Court Denies Summary Judgment in ACPA Case

Author: Eleanor Atkins

A Florida federal court recently denied summary judgment to a plaintiff seeking recovery of multiple domain names bearing his name, finding that a genuine issue of material fact existed as to whether the defendant had a bad faith intent to profit in violation of the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act (ACPA). See Pronman v. Styles, No. 12-80674, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 373 (S.D. Fla. Jan. 5, 2015).

The dispute began when defendant and classic car enthusiast, Brian Styles, allegedly lost $84,000 after attempting to purchase a 1969 ½ Super Bee vehicle from plaintiff Gary Pronman. After wiring the money as requested, Styles claimed he never received the car, or his money back. Angered by what he alleged was fraud, Styles created the website http://www.garypronman.com to warn other car collectors about his experience. The website also requested donations to fund a lawsuit against the plaintiff and allowed visitors to pay via credit card, although Styles never actually received any payments.

Pronman sued under ACPA and moved for summary judgment, arguing that the website’s credit card payment mechanism evidenced Styles’ bad faith intent to profit from the domain name. In response, Styles claimed that the request for donations was merely satirical and that he had no bad faith intent to profit.

Citing the Eleventh Circuit’s opinion in Chanel Inc. v. Italian Activewear of Florida Inc., 931 F.2d 1472 (11th Cir. 1991), the court denied summary judgment on the ground that the determination of whether a defendant has a bad faith intent to profit is factual. Among other things, the claim that the request for donations was satirical was inconsistent with the fact that the website was actually set up to receive payments. This inconsistency was sufficient to create a factual issue regarding intent.

 

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