• Who Owns a Domain Name?

    by  • March 14, 2012 • domain name

    If you say the person listed as the “registrant” in the domain name record owns the domain name, the court in Fraserside IP L.L.C. v. Kovalchukmight disagree with you. The question before the court was personal jurisdiction over Igor Kovalchuk, the person listed as the registrant of the website www-dot-DrTuber-dot-com (web site definitely not safe for work). Kovalchuk is a citizen and resident of Russia and has never visited or conducted business in Iowa, the state where the lawsuit was brought. He says that the website is owned by ERA Technologies, Ltd. and he just manages the technology for ERA. For purposes of personal jurisdiction, the court agreed that the plaintiff had not met its burden of proving Kovalchuk’s ownership:

    Because domain names may be sold, leased, or licensed, it does not necessarily follow that being the registrant of a domain name equates with operational control over the website using that domain name. Here, Kovalchuk specifically disputes his ownership and operation of www.DrTuber.com and has explained that ERA is the website’s actual owner while he merely manages ERA’s technology. Fraserside has not countered Kovalchuk’s sworn affidavit with affidavits or other evidence. Thus, after looking at the facts in the light most favorable to Fraserside, and resolving all factual conflicts in favor of it, Fraserside has not established that Kovalchuk owns and operates www.DrTuber.com. Thus, ownership and operation of the website www.DrTuber.com cannot constitute a basis for personal jurisdiction over Kovalchuk.

    The court did not have general or specific jurisdiction over Kovalchuk and the motion to dismiss was granted.
    Fraserside IP L.L.C. v. Kovalchuk, No. C11-3040-MWB(N.D. Iowa March 5, 2012).

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