United States District Court, N.D. Illinois
May 21, 2004.
NIKE, INC., an Oregon corporation, Plaintiff; V. CIRCLE GROUP INTERNET, INC., an Illinois corporation, Defendant
The opinion of the court was delivered by: ROBERT GETTLEMAN, District Judge
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Plaintiff Nike, Inc. filed a four-count complaint seeking damages and
injunctive relief against defendant Circle Group Internet, Inc., alleging
that defendant's use of the domain name <justdoit.net> constitutes:
cybersquatting under the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act
(ACPA), 15 U.S.C. § 1125(d) (Count I); trademark infringement in
violation of the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1114(1), and the common law of
various states, including Illinois (Count IT); unfair competition under
the common law of various states, including Illinois, as well as a
violation of the Illinois Deceptive Trade Practices Act, 815 ILCS §§ 510/1
et seq. (Count III); and dilution in violation of the Lanham Act,
15 U.S.C. § 1125(c) (Count IV).
Defendant has moved for summary judgment pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P.
56(c) on Count IV, and plaintiff has moved for summary judgment on Count
I. For the reasons discussed herein, plaintiff's motion for summary
judgment is granted and defendant's motion for summary judgment is
Plaintiff Nike is a sports and fitness company that designs,
manufactures, and markets a broad range of footwear, apparel and
equipment. Since 1988, plaintiff has continuously used and promoted the
trademark "JUST DO FT" in the United States and worldwide in connection
with footwear, apparel, equipment, retail store services, web-based
communication, informational services, advertising, and other related
goods and services. Plaintiff owns valid and subsisting federal trademark
registrations issued by the United States Patent and Trademark Office for
its JUST DO IT mark, including Reg. Nos. 1,817,919 (registered on January
25, 1994) and 1,875,307 (registered on January 24, 1995). Plaintiff's
exclusive right to use these registrations has become incontestable under
15 U.S.C. § 1065 and 1115.
Plaintiff has spent hundreds of millions of dollars advertising and
promoting its JUST DO IT mark and has sold tens of millions of dollars in
apparel under that mark. Plaintiff has produced advertisements featuring
JUST DO IT annually since 1990, and has further produced apparel
featuring that mark every season since 1990. Plaintiff also owns the
<justdoit.com> domain name.
Defendant Circle Group Internet, Inc., which was started in 1994, is a
company engaged in the business of assisting emerging companies trying to
build their business infrastructure. On or about February 20, 1997,
defendant registered the domain name <justdoit.net> with Network
Solutions, Inc. and began using it for the purpose of employee email
addresses. From 1999 to 2002, defendant also used the <justdoit.net> domain name to redirect
internet users to its web sites at <circlegroupinternet.com> and
Defendant makes no use of the JUST DO IT mark or the phrase "just do
it" on its website, and has no trademark registrations or applications
for the JUST DO IT mark. Nor is JUST DO IT part of defendant's legal name
or the legal name of any individual in the company. Defendant at no time
provided goods or services in connection with the <justdoit.net> domain
name, which was merely used as a redirect to defendant's primary
As of the mid-to late-nineties, defendant's CEO, Gregory Halpern, was
aware that plaintiff used JUST DO IT. Moreover, in his deposition,
Halpern acknowledged that it was possible that he knew of plaintiff's use
of the JUST DO IT phrase prior to registering <justdoit.net>.
According to Halpern, he chose <justdoit.net> as his company's domain
name because it is a positive, catchy and motivational phrase that he has
been using for over thirty years, as well as in his book I Care About
You, which was published by Can-Do Publishing Company, Inc. in 1978.
According to the declaration of Ashly Iacullo, attached to plaintiff's
reply, however, I Care About You does not contain the phrase "just do
it," and defendant has not directed the court's attention to any excerpt
of the book that recites that phrase. Further, in its own review of the
book, the court also could not locate the phrase "just do it." Nor has
defendant provided any other evidence that would corroborate Halpern's
testimony that he used the phrase consistently over the past thirty
On June 13, 2002, plaintiff filed a complaint with the World
Intellectual Property Organization Arbitration and Mediation Center
("WIPO") regarding defendant's use of the <justdoit.net> domain name. A majority of the WIPO panel concluded that
Nike was unable to show that Circle Internet Group registered the
<justdoit.net> domain name in bad faith, relying at least in part on
Circle Internet Group's representation that <justdoit.net> was used as
its main web page. In reaching that conclusion, however, the majority
opinion noted that using the domain name as a redirect to its own web page
"could potentially qualify as `bad faith' use." (Emphasis added.)
With this background in mind, the court turns to the standards
governing the instant motions for summary judgment.
SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD
A movant is entitled to summary judgment under Fed. R Civ. P. 56 when
the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on
file, together with any affidavits, show that there is no genuine issue
of material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of
law. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322
(1986); Unterreiner v. Volkswagen of America, Inc., 8 F.3d 1206, 1209
(7th Cir. 1993). Once a moving party has met its burden, the nonmoving
party must go beyond the pleadings and set forth specific facts showing
there is a genuine issue for trial. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e); Becker v.
Tenenbaum-Hill Assoc., Inc., 914 F.2d 107, 110 (7th Cir. 1990). The
nonmoving party "must do more than simply show that there is some
metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita Elec. Indus.
Co., Ltd, v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). "The mere
existence of a scintilla of evidence in support of the [nonmoving
party's] position will be insufficient; there must be evidence on which
the jury could reasonably find for the [nonmoving party]." Anderson v.
Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 252 (1986). DISCUSSION
1. Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment on Count I
Plaintiff has moved for summary judgment on its Anticybersquatting
Consumer Protection Act (ACPA) claim, 15 U.S.C. § 1125(d). To prevail
under the ACPA, plaintiff must establish that: (1) its JUST DO IT mark is
distinctive and famous; (2) defendant's <justdoit.net> domain name is
identical or confusingly similar to plaintiff's JUST DO IT mark; and (3)
defendant registered or used the <justdoit.net> domain name with bad
faith intent to profit. 15 U.S.C. § 1125(d)(1)(A). Defendant does not
dispute that the first two elements of plaintiffs ACPA claim have been
met in the instant case. Accordingly, the court focuses its attention on
the third element: bad faith intent to profit.
The ACPA, 15 U.S.C. § 1125(d)(1)(B)(i), lists the following
non-exhaustive factors to assist the court in determining whether a
person or entity acted with bad faith:
(I) the trademark or other intellectual property
rights of the person, if any, in the domain name;
(II) the extent to which the domain name consists
of the legal name of the person or a name that is
otherwise commonly used to identify that person;
(III) the person's prior use, if any, of the domain
name in connection with the bona fide offering of
any goods or services;
(IV) the person's bona fide noncommercial or fair
use of the mark in a site accessible under the
(V) the person's intent to divert consumers from the
mark owner's online location to a site accessible
under the domain name that could harm the goodwill
represented by the mark, either for commercial gain or
with the intent to tarnish or disparage the mark, by
creating a likelihood of confusion as to the source,
sponsorship, affiliation, or endorsement of the site;
(VI) the person's offer to transfer, sell, or
otherwise assign the domain name to the mark owner
or any third party for financial gain without
having used, or having an intent to use, the domain
name in the bona fide offering of any goods or
services, or the person's prior conduct indicating
a pattern of such conduct; (VII) the person's provision of material and
misleading false contact information when applying for
the registration of the domain name, the person's
intentional failure to maintain accurate contact
information, or the person's prior conduct indicating
a pattern of such conduct;
(VIII) the person's registration or acquisition of
multiple domain names which the person knows are
identical or confusingly similar to marks of others
that are distinctive at the time of registration of
such domain names, or dilutive of famous marks of
others that are famous at the time of registration
of such domain names, without regard to the goods
or services of the parties; and
(IX) the extent to which the mark incorporated in the
person's domain name registration is or is not
distinctive and famous within the meaning of
subsection (c)(1) of this section.
The ACPA also includes a "safe harbor" provision that provides that bad
faith "shall not be found in any case in which the court determines that
the person believed and had reasonable grounds to believe that the use of
the domain name was fair use or otherwise lawful."
15 U.S.C. § 1225(d)(1)(B)(ii).
The sixth, seventh and eighth factors do not support a finding of bad
faith. Plaintiff concedes that defendant never offered to transfer, sell
or otherwise assign <justdoit.net> for financial gain. Moreover, there is
no evidence that defendant provided material and misleading false contact
information when applying for its registration of <justdoit.net>, or that
defendant acquired multiple domain names which it knows are identical or
confusingly similar to others' marks.
Defendant does not dispute, however, that the first, second, third,
fourth, fifth, and ninth factors favor plaintiff. Defendant does not have
any intellectual property rights in <justdoit.net<, and <justdoit.net>
does not consist of defendant's legal name or a name that is commonly
associated with defendant. Defendant has also not used <justdoit.net> in
connection with the bona fide offering of any goods or services. Nor has
defendant made bona fide noncommercial or fair use of the JUST DO IT mark in a site accessible under
<justdoit.net>. Defendant also concedes that it was aware of plaintiff's
JUST DO IT mark when it registered <justdoit.net> and used it to divert
traffic to its primary website, <crgq.com>. Further, defendant does not
contest that JUST DO IT is distinctive and famous.
On balance, the factors described above lead to the inescapable
conclusion that defendant acted in bad faith and no reasonable factfinder
could conclude otherwise. Defendant registered a domain name containing
plaintiff's famous and distinctive trademark and used that domain name
to, among other things, divert web traffic to its own website. Other than
defendant's unsubstantiated representation that its chief executive
officer, Halpern, had used the phrase "just do it" in the past, defendant
does not appear to have any connection with JUST DO IT: "just do it" is
not part of defendant's name or that of any of its affiliates., and
defendant does not make bona fide noncommercial use or fair use of' "just
do it" on its website. Quite simply, defendant sought to capitalize on
plaintiff's goodwill in its JUST DO IT mark by diverting users to
defendant's primary website by using the <justdoit.net> domain name.
Defendant argues that its registration of <justdoit.net> instead of
<nikeinc.net> suggests that it did not intend to "steer" plaintiff's
customers to its own websites. This argument is unpersuasive. As
defendant concedes, plaintiff's JUST DO FT mark is both famous and
distinctive, and has been used by plaintiff since 1988. Indeed, at the
time of its registration of the <justdoit.net> domain name, defendant
admits that it knew of plaintiff's mark.
Defendant also maintains that the absence of the sixth factor
specifically, the fact that defendant never offered to sell
<justdoit.net> to plaintiff precludes a finding of bad faith. The court
disagrees. Offering to sell the domain name is but one of several factors
that the court may consider in assessing bad faith. The absence of that factor alone does
not preclude a finding of bad faith, especially in light of the other
factors supporting such a finding. See, e.g., Victoria's Cyber Secret
Limited Partnership v. V Secret Catalogue, Inc., 161 F. Supp.2d 1339,
1348 (S.D.Fla. 2001) (granting summary judgment on ACPA counterclaim when
"record [was] devoid of any evidence regarding plaintiff VCS's offer to
sell or assign the domain names. . . ."); Mattel, Inc. v. Adventure
Apparel, 2001 WL 1035140 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 7, 2001) (granting summary
judgment on ACPA claim when there was "no evidence" mat defendant offered
to sell, transfer or assign the domain name at issue).
Nor does the outcome of the WIPO administrative proceeding preclude a
finding of bad faith. The panel's finding that defendant did not
register the <justdoit.net> domain name in bad faith was explicitly based
on its (mistaken) understanding that <justdoit.net> was used as
defendant's main web page. Moreover, the entire panel found that
defendant's practice of redirecting the <justdoit.net> domain name to
defendant's primary site supported a finding of bad faith use. Thus, this
court's conclusion that defendant acted in bad faith, and that no
reasonable fact finder could conclude otherwise, is not contradicted by
the WIPO decision.
Nor may defendant avail itself of the ACPA's safe harbor provision,
which precludes a finding a bad faith "in any case in which the court
determines that the person believed and had reasonable grounds to believe
that the use of the domain name was fair use or otherwise lawful."
15 U.S.C. § 1125(d)(1)(B)(ii). Defendant argues that Mr. Halpern's use of
the phrase for more than thirty years in motivational speeches, as well
as in his book I Care About You, led defendant to reasonably believe that
it could use the phrase in the <justdoit.net> domain name at issue. As
noted earlier, however, defendant has not directed the court to any
excerpts from the book that include that phrase, and the court has not located the phrase in
the text of the book, which was submitted by plaintiff. Moreover,
plaintiff represents, and defendant does not dispute, that the phrase
"just do it" is not used in I Care About You.
Quite simply, defendant has not provided any evidence that supports his
representation that other individuals have heard Halpern utter the phrase
"just do it." The absence of such corroborating evidence is particularly
conspicuous in light of Halpern's deposition, at which he testified:
Q: Can you describe your use of the "just do it" phrase dating back 30
A: Mm-hmm. Well, I have just you know, I'm an optimist. I heard
Dean Martin sing the song Just Do It in the '60s and I adopted it but I
adopted lots of positive phrases too. That's just one of many positive
Q: So, can you detail your use at all? Do you have any specific
examples dating back 30 years?
A: Well, I used it to my parents all of the time.
Q: Do you have any examples that you used to your parents?
A: Just for anything to get it done, any kind of project at all, any
household project, work around the house, schoolwork, anything that
needed positive input.
. . .
Q: Did you ever write it down? A: Routinely.
Q: Do you have any of those documents?
A: Well, I wrote it in school papers and such but, no, I didn't keep
any of my paperwork from school.
Q: Okay. So what is the most recent document use you have of Just Do
A: I think well, I'll have to check, but I think I used it in a
book I wrote when I was 19.
. . .
Q: Beyond this use in '66 and '67 over the next 29 years or so, what
other use did you make, any specific examples you can think of?
A: Sure. I did a lot of positive and motivational speaking. I always
used it in my seminars.
Q: Are those recorded?
Q: So there's no videos of your speeches?
A: There might be actually. That's a good point. I didn't think about
. . .
Q: I'm assuming you will produce these if it turns out A. If they're available, yeah.
. . .
Q: Aside from your parents, you talked about using it in school. Are
there any teachers of whom you might have used it in front of?
Q: What would their names be?
A: One would be Ray Horton
. . .
A: I've got another one, too. Zig Ziggler is a motivational speaker.
Then another guy is Chuck Reeves who I am pretty sure would remember my
use on [sic] it several times.
. . .
A: I'd have to check with him but I know that [Chuck Reeves] would
recall me using that phrase.
Significantly, defendant has failed to produce any further evidence,
documentary or testimonial, other than Mr. Halpern's self-serving
testimony, that Halpern used the phrase "just do it" prior to using it on
its website. Without more, the court deems Halpern's representation
insufficient to create a genuine issue of material fact regarding his use
of, and defendant's connection to, the phrase "just do it." See DeLoach
v. Infinity Broadcasting, 164 F.3d 398, 402 (7th Cir. 1999) ("[T]he
nonmoving party is not entitled to rely on conclusory allegations,
unsupported by the record.").
Even if the court concluded otherwise, the fact remains that Halpern's
prior use of the phrase would not defeat summary judgment. As the Fourth
Circuit has noted, "All but the most blatant cybersquatters will be able
to put forth at least some lawful motives for their behavior. To hold
that all such individuals may qualify for the safe harbor would frustrate
Congress' purpose by artificially limiting the statute's reach." Virtual
Works, Inc. v. Volkswagen of America. Inc., 238 F.3d 264, 270 (4th Cir.
Defendant's awareness of plaintiff's JUST DO IT mark, which it admits
is famous and distinctive, as well as its practice of using
<justdoit.net> to divert web users to its own homepage with a domain name and content wholly different from and unrelated
to the JUST DO IT mark, establishes beyond question that defendant acted
in bad faith and is not entitled to benefit from the ACPA's safe harbor
Defendant's last argument is similarly unavailing. Defendant argues
that plaintiff's ACPA claim is barred by laches, since defendant
registered <justdoit.net> back in 1997, five years before plaintiff
brought its claim, and defendant would be prejudiced by having to change
its employees' email addresses and business documents containing the
<justdoit.net> domain name. Defendant maintains that the <justdoit.net>
domain name has "become recognized as having some relation to CGI by its
employees and customers" and that "CGI would be damaged if it were forced
to relinquish control of the domain name."
Even assuming arguendo that plaintiff had notice of defendant's use of
the <justdoit.net> domain name, defendant has not established that
plaintiff unreasonably delayed bringing action, especially considering
that the ACPA was not enacted until November 1999. Further, that
defendant may incur unspecified, unsubstantiated costs relating to
plaintiff's success on its ACPA claim is insufficient to establish
prejudice in the instant case. Cf. AT & T Corp. v. ATT & T, Inc., 2002
WL 31500934, *2 (D.Del. Oct. 31, 2002) (granting summary judgment against
defendant notwithstanding the fact that "defendant [is] a small business
which would be significantly harmed by having to change its name and
associated signage, stationery, etc.").
For these reasons, plaintiff's motion for summary judgment on its ACPA
claim is granted. 2. Defendant's motion for summary judgment on Count IV
Defendant has moved for summary judgment on plaintiff's claim for
dilution under the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1125(c), arguing that
plaintiff cannot show that defendant's use of the <justdoit.net> domain
name actually diluted plaintiff's JUST DO IT mark. The court disagrees.
"The term `dilution' means the lessening of the capacity of a famous
mark to identify and distinguish goods or services, regardless of the
presence or absence of (1) competition between the owner of the famous
mark and other parties, or (2) likelihood of confusion, mistake, or
deception." 15 U.S.C. § 1127. In Moseley v. V Secret Catalog, Inc., et
al., 537 U.S. 418, 432-33 (2003), the Supreme Court held that the text of
§ 1127 "unambiguously requires a showing of actual dilution, rather than
a likelihood of dilution." In dicta, the Moseley court explained that
"direct evidence of dilution such as consumer surveys will not be
necessary if actual dilution can reliably be proved through
circumstantial evidence the obvious case is one where the junior and
senior marks are identical." Id. at 434.
The parties disagree on the correct interpretation of the Moseley
court's dicta regarding circumstantial evidence. According to defendant,
the Moseley court meant that proof of actual dilution by circumstantial
evidence is sufficient if the marks are identical. See, e.g., Savin
Corp. v. Savin Group, 2003 WL 22451731, at *14-15 (S.D.N.Y. October 24,
2003). Plaintiff, on the other hand, maintains that if the marks are
identical, that in itself constitutes sufficient circumstantial evidence
of dilution. See, e.g., Nike Inc. v. Variety Wholesalers,
274 F. Supp.2d 1352, 1372 (S.D.Ga. 2003). The court need not resolve this
dispute, however, because in addition to the identity of the marks at
issue, there is sufficient circumstantial evidence of dilution in the
record to preclude summary judgment. First, defendant conceded in its response to plaintiff's motion for
summary judgment on its ACPA claim that the <justdoit.net> domain name
has "become recognized as having some relation to CGI by its employees
and customers." Further, when asked at his deposition whether people ever
mentally associate defendant's <justdoit.net> with Nike, defendant's
CEO, Halpern, testified, "I have got to believe that at some point
somebody said . . . oh, like Nike." The court concludes that this
evidence, along with the identity of the marks, is sufficient to create
an issue of material fact regarding plaintiff's dilution claim.
Accordingly, defendant's motion for summary judgment on Count IV is
For the reasons stated herein, plaintiff's motion for summary judgment
on Count I is granted, and defendant's motion for summary judgment on
Count IV is denied. The parties are directed to appear for a status
report on June 1, 2004, at 9:00 a.m.