Groupon knew the guy had the name and the intention to use it for a coupon service, and they then went ahead and registered the guys (unregistered) trademark with full knowledge that the guy was planning on using it (+ with the intention of forcing him to give up the domain). They then used the trademark to make him give up the domain. How could Groupon's lawyers not have warned them that this was a bad idea ?
The domain-owner's 'intent' doesn't count for much; everyone with a domain name has a plausible 'intent' to use it for a related web project.
And the suggestion they 'speak to lawyers right now' is goofy -- they certainly consulted much better legal counsel than is available in this discussion thread before spending $250K for an international domain purchase.
However in this case he doesn't even need to prove his usage was trademark worthy, the Groundless Threats doctrine just requires you to be threatened unfairly, which given it seems pretty clear from the interview that the trademark was registered in bad faith (knowing a competitor was going to use it) it seems likely to be covered. If a court finds he was made to sell his domain under duress from a groundless trademark threat then they could invalidate the sale and award substantial compensation.
If he had elected to just sit there and keep renewing, and www.groupon.com just took you to a blank page saying 'not affiliated with the Groupon company', nothing bad would have happened. I personally think that having made $250k for doing very little other than have a good idea, he's feeling extremely pleased right now and the last thing on his mind is spending his windfall on bringing a court case of dubious merit.
An approach along the lines of "we really, really want the name and will pay big bucks for you to relinquish your rights to it; however much you like the name our trademarks are going to make it difficult for you to succeed with it and we're offering you way more than you'll conceivably make off parking income" doesn't seem unduly threatening
But yeah it depends exactly what was exchanged between the two parties, but even saying "our trademarks are going to make it difficult for you" could be considered as crossing the line, the UK has fairly stringent rules to prevent frivolous IP threats.
1) I wonder if they would have got the domain via the first contact if they had offered $250k, or even $125k there and then (ie no trademark route). When people email me about domains "asking if I'm interested in selling" it's usually because they are looking to pay $500 range. If it's worth $250k to you, use a lawyer and then the other person knows you're serious. I would have thought almost all unused domains are for sale at $250k.
2) No one seems to be thinking about the risk here, which is that they invested a lot of time, effort and money into the Groupon brand (inc trademarking it) but they didn't own the domain.
That seems like quite a risk because, despite common assumption, you are not entitled to a domain just because you own the trademark (the other party could have other circumstances). Mr A R Mani legitimately owned and held armani.com until they had to privately buy him out and this dude could say he was building a community for roof-top gardeners (Gro Upon.com). Put up a dummy site for that and their case is tough.
Company doesn't offer enough for a domain that's their own company name .com.
Domain name is probably worth less then $25k.
Company launchs and grows really big.
Company trademarks the domain and manage to buy it for $250k.
They manage to call it a success.
if they tried to claim the domain (via an arbitration panel through the UDRP) by asserting ownership of the trademark, they would lose because the domain name was registered before the trademark was applied for.
Trademarks (in the UK) are both a registered and an unregistered right.
You get a trademark by using a mark that is suitable to identify the source of goods or services. A website, for example, is a service and so their is an automatically established IP right for the original owners.
Marks are registered in a particular ["Nice"] classification and only protect against other following uses in that same classification.
Strictly (at least in Europe, AFAICT) someone else can use your mark in your field of commerce too provided there is no cause for confusion as to the origin - eg disparate geographical locations. But cost of lawyers and the assumption of confusion tend to rule against this.
To get that domain through UDRP they shouldn't stand a chance if registration date of the domain is before trademark or use. It couldn't be registered in bad faith no matter what they were using it for. Of course, there are all sorts of terrible judges on UDRP panels and it's like russian roulette.
They built a business with huge revenues. When I asked him if he could at least say that Groupon generates over $100 million, I think he laughed and said that $100 million is small.
"I think we bought it in May 2009 or something like that for maybe $250,000, which seemed like a lot at the time and now it seems cheap."
Names are of vital importance.
Meebo may sound idiotic to you but it's rhythm and sound fit the web-2.0 ethos, it's short, easy to spell, easy to share, lends itself to verb-ising, including "me" suggests personal communication and "-bo" links with other site name (I've never heard of it, but I'm guessing it's a myspace/bebo mix based on the name) ...
Also are you really claiming that you're the only person able to avoid post hoc analysis? Or indeed that you're immune to it. Perhaps you only think it sounds stupid because you think the product is stupid or because of the style they use to market it.
As domainers would say - ding-ding-ding we have a winner!