Real Estate Titan Re/Max Sues Real Estate Salesperson for Cybersquatting.

LAS VEGAS, June 29, 2009 -- Colorado-based Re/Max International, Inc. filed a trademark infringement and cybersquatting action in federal court against a Nevada woman and her corporation for registering at least 60 web domains containing "remax."

The case names Cristine Rosa Lefkowitz and her corporation C. Rosa, Inc as defendants.

In april 2007. Re/Max became aware that the web domain www.remaxbrazil.com was registered through Domains by Proxy, Inc. ("Domains by Proxy"), a service that will list itself as the registrant for a fee so the true registrant can conceal their identity on the publically available Whois database of registrants.

On or about May 3, 2007, Re/Max contacted Domains by Proxy to request termination of the proxy service for www.remaxbrazil.com which would cause the real registrant's name to appear in the Whois database pursuant to a provision included in all domain registration agreements per the terms of the ICANN Registrar Accredidation Agreement. The ICANN agreement requires all proxy services to accept liability from the use of domains registered in their name unless they identify the user of a domain when a party provides reasonable evidence of actionable harm and requests the information.

Domains by Proxy notified Re/Max on approximately May 8, 2007 that it contacted its customer and requested they contact Re/Max to discuss www.remaxbrazil.com. The next day, Re/Max received a phone call from Ms. Lefkowitz.

The complaint states Ms. Lefkowitz confirmed he was the registrant of www.remaxbrazil.com during the course of the call and admitted to owning www.remaxdejaneiro.com and a number of other domains. She also claimed to have previously spoken with a Re/Max representative about a regional master franchise for the nation of Brazil.

Shortly after the phone call, Re/Max received an e-mail from Ms. Lefkowitz "memorializing" the conversation, wherein she states that she had registered several real estate names related to Brazil and that "owning good domain names is always [her] first step in order to develop a successful business." Lefkowitz added that she was open to talking to Re/Max about "the territories, guidelines and most important costs" related to doing business with Re/Max and that, "The domain names could also be sold to Remax depending on the outcome of our conversations."

Re/Max thereafter conducted an investigation and determined neither the International Development Department or the Director of the Re/Max Southwest region ever corresponded with Ms. Lefkowitz regarding business dealings in Brazil or elsewhere.

Re/Max has federally registered RE/MAX as a trademark in addition to a number of stylized logos.

A letter was sent by Re/Max to Lefkowitz on May 10, 2008 stated that she was violating Re/Max's trademark ownership rights in addition to violating the Anti-Cybersquatting Consumer Protection Act. The letter also demand that she cease using the aforementioned domain names and further demanded that the domains be transferred to Re/Max.

A subsequent investigation conducted by Re/Max revealed 10 more domain names containing "remax" in combination with South American locales and 50 domains names combining "remax" with locales around the world, such as Belgium, Austria, Delhi, Italy, Netherlands, Finland, Sweden, South Korea, Indonesia, etc., registered to the defendants.

On August 8, 2007, legal counsel for Lefkowitz and C. Rosa, Inc. indicated that www.remaxbrazil.com and www.remaxriodejaneiro.com would be transferred to Re/Max but did not mention any other domain names. Later that month, defendants' counsel informed Re/Max that they no longer represented the defendants.

New legal counsel for Lefkowitz and C. Rosa, Inc. contacted Re/Max on September 28, 2007 who said that Lefwoxitz was not interested transferring the "domain names" because she wanted to license the right to use and or sub-franchise the RE/MAX trademarks in Brazil. Nevertheless, legal counsel then notified Re/Max that Lefkowitz "will release the domain name for $15,000" without specifying whether the domain referred to was remaxbrazil.com or remaxriodejaneiro.com.

When Re/Max declined and reasserted their position, counsel for Lefkowitz communicated that both www.remaxbarzil.com and www.remaxriodejaneiro.com could be transferred for "the nuance value" of filing suit in the amount of $6,000.

Cybersquatting involves registering, trafficking in, or using a domain name with bad faith intent to profit from a trademark belonging to someone else and is prohibited by the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act. The maximum allowable damages under this law is $100,000 per domain. The Act also allows a trademark owner to gain ownership of a domain that infringes a trademark.

If Re/Max is successful in establishing trademark infringement. they could recover the profits of the infringers and any damages sustained by the plaintiff under the Lanham act. In assessing damages the court may enter judgment for any sum above the amount found as actual damages, up to three times. When a court finds a defendant intentionally infringed a registered trademark, the court must, unless the court finds extenuating circumstances, enter judgment for three times such profits or damages, whichever is greater, together with a reasonable attorney’s fee unless the Plaintiff elects for statutory damages up to $1,000,000 per counterfeit mark per type of goods or services sold, offered for sale, or distributed.

An issue in the case may be whether it was reasonable for Re/Max to wait until June, 2009 to file suit. The defense of laches can prevent a claimant from recovering releif if a court determines the claimant was unreasonably dilatory or negligent in bringing their claim(s).

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