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Frayne v. Chicago 2016

January 8, 2008

STEPHEN FRAYNE, JR., PLAINTIFF,
v.
CHICAGO 2016, UNITED STATES OLYMPIC COMMITTEE, AND DOMAIN TRADE, INC., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Matthew F. Kennelly, District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff Stephen Frayne, Jr. (Frayne) has sued Chicago 2016, an Illinois corporation, the United States Olympic Committee (USOC), and Domain Trade, Inc. for declaratory relief regarding various trademarks (counts 1-3), for reverse domain name highjacking and attempted reverse domain name highjacking under a provision of the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1114(2)(D) (counts 4-5), and for declaratory and other relief for violations of various provisions of the United States and Illinois Constitutions (counts 6-9). The constitutional claims are directed solely at Chicago 2016. Chicago 2016 and the USOC have moved to dismiss counts 4 through 9.*fn1 For the reasons stated below, the Court grants the motion as to counts 4 and 5 but otherwise denies the motion.

Facts

When considering a motion to dismiss, the Court accepts as true the complaint's factual allegations and draws reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff. See, e.g., Killingsworth v. HSBC Bank Nevada, N.A., 507 F.3d 614, 617 (7th Cir. 2007).

In July 2006, the City of Chicago allegedly incorporated Chicago 2016 to serve as the City's agent as part of its efforts to bring the 2016 Olympic Games to Chicago. Frayne alleges that "Chicago 2016, although a private entity, is the official representative and agent of the City of Chicago . . . ." Compl. ¶ 23. On November 28, 2006, Chicago 2016 filed to register "CHICAGO 2016" as a trademark. That trademark was registered on April 22, 2008. Chicago 2016 assigned its interest in the CHICAGO 2016 mark to the USOC in April 2007. The USOC subsequently licensed to Chicago 2016 the right to use the CHICAGO 2016 mark.

Several years earlier, in August 2004, Frayne registered the Internet domain name "chicago2016.com." At that time, Frayne was unaware that Chicago intended to bid for the 2016 Olympic Games. On October 10, 2007, a representative of Chicago 2016 approached Frayne, via e-mail, inquiring if he was "entertaining offers on or would otherwise be willing to part with: chicago2016.com." Compl. ¶ 24. Frayne informed the representative that he was unwilling to sell the chicago2016.com domain name. Subsequent attempts by Chicago 2016 to acquire the domain name from Frayne were similarly unsuccessful.

On July 15, 2008, defendants initiated proceedings before the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) claiming that Frayne had registered and used the chicago2016.com domain name in bad faith. In that complaint, defendants alleged that Frayne's registration and use of the domain name violated the Uniform Domain-Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP). After Frayne filed the instant lawsuit on September 17, 2008, the WIPO dismissed defendants' complaint without prejudice.

Discussion

The Seventh Circuit has emphasized that, even after the Supreme Court's ruling in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007), federal courts continue to adhere to a notice-pleading standard. E.g., Tamayo v. Blagojevich, 526 F.3d 1074, 1083-83 (7th Cir. 2008). "A plaintiff must still provide only enough detail to give the defendant fair notice of what the claim is and the grounds upon which it rests . . . ." Id. at 1083 (quotation omitted).

In response to defendants' motion, Frayne concedes that it is appropriate to dismiss count 4, which purported to state a claim for reverse domain name highjacking. Accordingly, the Court grants defendants' motion with respect to count 4.

1. Attempted Reverse Domain Name Highjacking

Count 5 purports to state a claim for "attempted reverse domain name highjacking" in violation of 15 U.S.C. § 1114(2)(D). The relevant portion of that statute provides:

A domain name registrant whose domain name has been suspended, disabled, or transferred under a policy described under clause (ii)(II) may, upon notice to the mark owner, file a civil action to establish that the registration or use of the domain name by such registrant is not unlawful under this chapter.

15 U.S.C. ยง 1114(2)(D)(v). It is undisputed that Frayne's chicago2016.com domain name has not been suspended, disabled, or transferred. For that reason, Frayne conceded it was appropriate to dismiss count 4. He contends, however, that he ...


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