Ninth Circuit Applies California law to Domain Name Ownership Dispute and Remands for Determination of Whether “Innocent Purchaser” Defense Applies — CRS Recovery, Inc. v. Laxton

12 04 2010

[Post by Venkat]

CRS Recovery, Inc. v. Laxton, 9th Cir. (April 6, 2010).

Background: Mayberry registered through Network Solutions in 1995. At the time, was also registered to him. Mayberry provided as the email address for the registrant and administrative contacts. The domain name ultimately expired and was later registered by Li Qiang. Qiang – who the court notes is probably judgment proof – receives an email (at from Network Solutions relating to Qiang then transfers to himself and then sells to Barnali Kalita, an Indian citizen, who later sells to Laxton, the defendant below.

[Keeping your registration information current is common sense, but if there’s ever a case that illustrates the importance of it, this is definitely one of them!] [Eric’s addition: the Meyerkord v. Zipatoni case really highlighted this point IMO]

Once Mayberry realizes that he has lost control of he tracks down the current registrant, which happens to be Laxton, and requests that Laxton transfer the name back to Mayberry. Laxton – having just spent significant resources prevailing in a WIPO domain name proceeding brought by Ralph Lauren – understandably declines. Mayberry sues, and the trial court grants Mayberry summary judgment and orders the domain name transferred back to Mayberry. The trial court concludes, over Laxton’s objection, that California law applies. On appeal, the Ninth Circuit affirms that California law applies, but remands for a determination of whether theft or fraud resulted in the original loss of the domain name. If Laxton obtained the property from someone who obtained title by fraud, the “innocent purchaser” defense comes into play, and Laxton cannot be held liable for conversion.


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