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January 29, 2015

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Company blocks Web site that prompted M Resort lawsuit

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A marketplace for the buying and selling of Web site names has blocked access to a site that allegedly infringed on the trademark of Henderson's M Resort.

Officials at Cambridge, Mass.-based Sedo, an acronym for "Search Engine for Domain Offers," said Monday they took action against the Web site after reading about it in a news story.

Allegedly operated by a Web site name seller in Shanghai, China, the Web site was the subject of a trademark lawsuit filed last week in U.S. District Court in Las Vegas.

The domain name owner was accused of "cybersquatting" -- that is, posting a Web site with a name similar to the name of the business an Internet user is looking for. In this case, the site apparently targeted people mistakenly typing in the extra "www".

Before it was taken down, the site included links to several travel-business Web sites that book rooms at hotels that compete with the M Resort. At one point, it linked to an adult Web site, M Resort's lawsuit complained.

Jeremiah Johnston, general counsel and chief operating officer of Sedo, said the company regularly monitors various sources to find Web site domain name owners that may be abusing its marketplace by offering for sale domain names that may violate trademarks.

More than 16 million domain names are typically offered for sale at any given time by Sedo. Besides offering the sites for sale, Sedo hosts them and tracks the traffic and ad revenue they generate -- key information of interest to buyers.

"It's basically a marketplace for language," he said.

And with the selling of language comes trademark issues, but only in a small percentage of the sites for sale, Johnston said.

He said companies and individuals concerned that their domain names are being infringed upon can contact Sedo directly.

"I don't want (on Sedo) a name subject to a legal dispute," he said.

In the M Resort case, it's possible the domain name at issue will be hosted by another company, Johnston said. But without advertising and traffic data, there's little incentive for anyone to use or buy the domain name, he said.

Johnston is also president of the Internet Commerce Association, which says it represents responsible domain name investors and developers in what's called the direct-search industry -- the Internet industry competing with non-Internet advertising media such as direct mail, print, television, radio and billboards.

Sedo is also active in protecting trademarks with the International Trademark Association.

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