Famous Trade Secret Lawsuit: “Oscar” People v. GoDaddy
We’re travelling back in time to review one of the more famous trade secret cases of the past decade.
In 2012, Google won a major trade secret battle. A complicated lawsuit, GoDaddy and The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences – the folks who give out Oscars — were the named parties, not Google. But the search engine giant got yanked into the fray because of its AdSense program.
AMPAS v. GoDaddy: A Lawsuit That Turned Into Famous Trade Secret Case Involving Google
At its core AMPAS v. GoDaddy was a cybersquatting lawsuit. In short, AMPAS felt GoDaddy’s “CashParking” program unfairly capitalized on the Academy’s name and reputation.
For example, piggybacking off the “Oscar” brand, one enterprising domain marketer purchased oscarliveblogging.com and oscarlist.com and signed up for the GoDaddy parked pages revenue program. When Oscar season hit, the forward-thinker earned a chunk of change.
Exhibiting the inflexibility now characteristic of traditional entertainment lobbying groups, The Academy filed a lawsuit against GoDaddy, claiming the domain registrar was unfairly profiting from AMPAS’ name.
Wait, NO! It’s Google’s Fault!
In an attempt to deflect responsibility, both GoDaddy and AMPAS blamed Google’s AdSense program. AMPAS wanted access to AdSense’s inner workings to ensure proper anti-copyright precautions were taken. The group also wanted to examine Google’s revenue share calculations. Meanwhile, GoDaddy argued that Google is “solely responsible” for any misappropriated funds generated via domain advertising violations.
Hand Over Your Famous Trade Secret, Google! Judge Says: Not So Fast.
Basically, GoDaddy and AMPAS wanted Google to hand over corporate secrets, under the pretext of a lawsuit. But Judge Paul Grewal sided with the search engine, deeming the request burdensome. Grewal reasoned that legitimizing the discovery motion would unnecessarily – and unfairly — expose Google to an avalanche of third-party legal hassles.
“AMPAS has not shown that the 4,000 pages of documents Google already produced does not provide the information it needs or why at least some of the additional discovery it wants was not obtained from GoDaddy or public sources.”
Crux of the Issue: No Bad Faith Intent To Profit
The legal heart of AMPAS v. GoDaddy was whether or not GoDaddy engaged in a “bad faith intent to profit.” In online intellectual property lawsuits, proof of a domain being used “inappropriately” isn’t enough (exceptions exist). Plaintiffs also need to demonstrate that the defendant is profiting from the infringement.