Organizing for Action loses bid to control website domain
WASHINGTON — Organizing for Action, President Obama’s nonprofit advocacy organization, has sought to be nimble as it ramps up a national effort to back his agenda on gun control measures and immigration reform.
But it appears the group didn’t move swiftly enough to protect its presence online.
An arbitrator has denied the organization’s effort to obtain the domain name organizingforaction.net, registered by a quick-moving computer technician in Castle Rock, Colo., on Jan. 18, when the news broke that Obama’s former advisors were launching the group.
Derek Bovard proceeded to configure the site so all the hits were directed to the website for the National Rifle Assn. It was one of three domain names for Organizing for Action that the group failed to register before it launched.
“If they don’t like it, they can buy it from me,” Bovard told the Los Angeles Times at the time.
Instead, a lawyer with the firm Perkins Coie, representing Organizing for Action, filed a complaint with the National Arbitration Forum, which handles disputes over domain names.
The complaint argued that Organizing for Action had established “common law trademark rights” through media coverage and than Bovard registered the domain in “bad faith.”
Bovard contended that Organizing for Action did not have any presence when he scooped up the name, and said he had no intention of selling it. He said that the website would be used “to discuss conservative political views and values.”
In a decision issued last week, Karl V. Fink, a retired judge in Ann Arbor, Mich., concluded that Organizing for Action did not provide evidence that the name was “a distinctive identifier” of the group or that it owned any trademarks at the time.
(In fact, the group did not file a trademark registration for “Organizing for Action” until Feb. 7, according to United States Patent and Trademark Office records.)
James Vana, the attorney representing the group, declined to comment, and a spokeswoman for Organizing for Action did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The nonprofit currently uses as its website barackobama.com, the same domain used by Obama’s 2012 campaign.
As for Bovard, he did not say what plans he has for organizingforaction.net. But the site currently points to a YouTube video of Dr. Benjamin Carson, a neurosurgeon who became a darling of the conservative movement after criticizing Obama’s healthcare overhaul during an appearance at the National Prayer Breakfast in February.
Organizing for Action has also appeared unsuccessful in wresting back organizingforaction.com and organizingforaction.org, which were both scooped up by a registered Republican who lives in Wellington, Fla.
But those sites now include a disclaimer stating that they are “NOT affiliated with any 501(c)(3), 501(c)(4), or other entity or business that uses the generic phrase Organizing For Action as all or a portion of its name.”
“Organizingforaction.com is not seeking to prevent you from contacting any such entities, businesses, or their websites, or to disrupt their activities,” the disclaimer reads. “Therefore, if you are seeking a different entity, business, or website, it is suggested that you perform a Google or other Internet search to locate it.”
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