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A “notorious cybersquatter” was ordered to pay $500,000 in damages and more than $30,000 in attorney’s fees Monday after a federal judge found that he had registered five Internet domain names that are “confusingly similar” to the domain names for sites operated by Electronics Boutique. In a strongly worded 21-page opinion in Electronics Boutique Holding Corp. v. Zuccarini, U.S. District Judge Berle M. Schiller of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania found that John Zuccarini’s cybersquatting business is quite lucrative, earning him up to $1 million per year. “Cybersquatting” or “cyberpiracy” refers to the “deliberate, bad-faith, and abusive registration of Internet domain names in violation of the rights of trademark owners.” By registering dozens of domain names that are based on possible misspellings of popular Web sites, Schiller found, Zuccarini lures Internet surfers into a “mousetrap” in which a series of advertising windows appear in succession. With each click on the ads, Zuccarini earns 10 to 25 cents. Schiller found that it was necessary to hit Zuccarini and his company, Cupcake Patrol, with the maximum statutory damages under the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act of 1999 — $100,000 for each offending domain name — because he had registered the names after other courts had enjoined him from registering misspelled names in suits brought by other companies. “Mr. Zuccarini boldly thumbs his nose at the rulings of this court and the laws of our country. Therefore, I find that justice in this case requires that damages be assessed against Mr. Zuccarini in the amount of $100,000 per infringing domain name, for a total of $500,000,” Schiller wrote. Zuccarini was previously enjoined by U.S. District Judge Stewart Dalzell from registering names that could be confused with the popular JoesCartoon.com site. Since then, Schiller found, “Zuccarini has unexplainedly registered hundreds of domain names which are misspellings of famous people’s names, famous brands, company names, television shows, and movies, victimizing, among others, the Survivor television show, Play Station and Carmageddon video game products, singers Kylie Minogue, Gwen Stefani and J.C. Chasez, The National Enquirer, and cartoon characters the Power Puff Girls.” Zuccarini never responded to the Electronics Boutique lawsuit and failed to appear in court. But Schiller found that the plaintiff had done all it could to effect service and that “Zuccarini’s failure to respond to this matter forces me to conclude that he willfully avoided service and that he made a conscious choice to allow this matter to proceed in his absence.” Schiller found that “Zuccarini’s bad-faith intent to profit from the domain misspellings is abundantly clear” because he registered the domain misspellings “in order to generate advertising revenue for himself, despite being aware of the Electronics Boutique stores and Web site.” Zuccarini counts on the fact that Internet users will sometimes misspell domain names and “then profits each time an Internet user makes a typing or spelling mistake which Mr. Zuccarini correctly forecasts,” Schiller wrote. The ruling is a victory for attorney Glenn A. Weiner of Philadelphia’s Klehr Harrison Harvey Branzburg & Ellers, who said the judgment is the largest statutory award to date in a suit brought under the new anticybersquatting law. Weiner’s client, Electronics Boutique, operates two Web sites — electronicsboutique.com and ebworld.com. Zuccarini registered five variations on those site names — electronicboutique.com, eletronicsboutique.com, electronicbotique.com, ebwold.com and ebworl.com. Schiller found that Zuccarini isn’t entitled to any of the “safe harbor” defenses in the anticybersquatting law because “the domain misspellings quite obviously do not consist of names used to identify Mr. Zuccarini, legally or otherwise.” Zuccarini also “has no bona fide business purpose for registering the domain misspellings,” Schiller said, “as he does not and has not offered any goods or services that relate to EB or electronic products.” And since Zuccarini has no intellectual property rights at issue, Schiller said he was forced to conclude that Zuccarini “specifically intended to prey on the confusion and typographical and/or spelling errors of Internet users to divert Internet users from EB’s Web site for his own commercial gain.” By contrast, Schiller found that Electronics Boutique has a strong presence on the Internet. EB registered its EBWorld domain name in December 1996 and its ElectronicsBoutique domain name in December 1997. Since then, Schiller said, the company has “invested heavily” in promoting its Web site to online customers. “An easy-to-use Web site is critical to EB’s ability to generate revenue directly through Internet customers and indirectly as support for EB’s �brick and mortar’ stores. Over the last eight months, online purchases have yielded an average of more than $1.1 million in sales per month and EB has logged more than 2.6 million online visitors,” Schiller wrote. Zuccarini registered the five misspelled versions of EB’s domain names in May 2000. Schiller described a typical Internet user’s experience when mistakenly directed to one of Zuccarini’s sites. “When a potential or existing online customer, attempting to access EB’s Web site, mistakenly types one of Mr. Zuccarini’s domain misspellings, he is `mousetrapped’ in a barrage of advertising windows, featuring a variety of products, including credit cards, Internet answering machines, games, and music,” Schiller wrote. “The Internet user cannot exit the Internet without clicking on the succession of advertisements that appears. Simply clicking on the `X’ in the top right-hand corner of the screen, a common way to close a Web browser window, will not allow a user to exit . . . . Sometimes, after wading through as many as 15 windows, the Internet user could gain access to EB’s Web site.” But before that happens, Schiller said, Zuccarini is paid between 10 and 25 cents by the advertisers for every click the Internet user makes to escape from the mousetrap. In the final pages of his opinion, Schiller granted EB’s request for attorney fees of more than $30,000. The majority of the fees were for Weiner’s time — 116.95 hours at a rate of $210 per hour — while the remainder compensated four other lawyers who logged a total of 13.25 hours at rates ranging from $140 to $300 per hour. Schiller noted that Zuccarini did not object or even respond to EB’s request for fees. Independently, the judge found that “the time expenditures were reasonable and directly related to the claims at issue in this matter” and that “the rates are reasonable according to the prevailing market rates in Philadelphia.”

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