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Tony Batt
 

Venetian Wins Legal Feud with Web Site

8 August 2005

WASHINGTON -- A federal judge in Virginia has ordered an Internet gambling business to stop using names on its Web sites that are similar to the trademark owned by The Venetian on the Strip.

In a July 28 ruling, U.S. District Judge Gerald Bruce Lee of Alexandria, Va., said Global DIP, a Costa Rican corporation, violated the Anti-Cybersquatting Consumer Protection Act of 1999 by using the names without The Venetian's permission.

The Web site names that Global DIP was using included VenetianGold.net, VenetianGold.com, VenetianGold Casino.com, VenicianGold. com, VenetianGoldCasino.net, VenecianGold.com and VeniceGoldCasino.com.

"The court finds that defendant domain names are confusingly similar to (The Venetian's) service marks because a reasonable consumer might think that they were used, approved, or permitted by (The Venetian)," Lee wrote in an opinion.

More than 1,800 Internet gambling Web sites produced about $8.4 billion in revenue last year, and the market is projected to reach $23 billion by 2009, according to Christiansen Capital Advisors.

As the online gambling industry expands, brick and mortar casinos are becoming more vigilant in protecting their brand names.

The Venetian hired Alan Fisch, a prominent Washington attorney who specializes in intellectual property cases, for its lawsuit against Global DIP.

"This should be a signal to any entity that they will not be able to profit off The Venetian brand," Venetian spokesman Ron Reese said.

Mark Evens, another Washington attorney who represented Global DIP and its chief executive officer, Vincent Coyle, in the Venetian lawsuit, has filed notice of appeal to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va.

Evens could not be reached for comment Friday.

Trademark disputes involving Internet businesses are pretty common, said Gloria Phares, an intellectual property lawyer with the New York City firm of Patterson, Belknap, Webb & Tyler,

"It's not just casinos, but in all retail areas," Phares said.

Eugene Christiansen, founder of Christiansen Capital Advisors, said the decision may lead to more lawsuits based on the anti-cybersquatting act.

"I think this ruling shows courts aren't going to allow this, and casinos or any other companies that think their name or trademarks are being misappropriated for use in cyberspace probably should do (what The Venetian did)," said Christiansen.

The Venetian and other mainstream casinos have not plunged into the Internet gambling market because the Department of Justice has said online gambling would violate a 1961 federal statute that bars the use of phone lines to place bets across state lines.

Anthony Cabot, a Las Vegas lawyer who specializes in Internet gambling, said offshore companies are making it more difficult to detect their exploitation of established casinos' trademarks .

For example, instead of using domain names such as The Venetian, an offshore company might use a more general name like "bcgaming.com." But when customers call up the site, it might look like it is owned by The Venetian. "These (offshore gambling) companies are becoming really clever about stealing (online) traffic," Cabot said.

Venetian Wins Legal Feud with Web Site is republished from Online.CasinoCity.com.