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Pensacola Christian College Sues Former Graduate for $100,000 Over Domain Name

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By Melissa Barnhart, CP Reporter
April 1, 2013|5:20 pm

Pensacola Christian College in Pensacola, Fla., claims that a former student is cybersquatting and profiting from the use of the PCC trademark, and is suing the 1996 graduate for $100,000 in damages.

The lawsuit, Pensacola Christian College Inc. v. Peter Gage, was filed on March 25 in the Florida Northern District Court and asks U.S. District Judge Casey Rodgers to find that Gage is committing trademark infringement against PCC, and seeks to have the domain name, Pensacola Christian College, taken away from Gage.

PCC claims that Gage is using the site "for the purpose of misleading and confusing the public about its association with PCC, and trading on the goodwill, reputation and fame of PCC," according to the lawsuit.

Gage, a resident of Spokane, Wash., graduated from PCC in 1996, but he continues to pay to register the website, pensacolachristiancollege.com, which criticizes the college's policies. The site also provides a link to the college's official website, pcci.edu.

In 2001, PCC filed a complaint against Gage to the National Arbitration Forum, which handles disputes over websites. The forum, however, dismissed PCC's complaint and ruled that Gage "has rights and legitimate interests in respect of the domain name at issue."

The forum required PCC to prove three criteria before they could obtain an order to cancel or transfer the domain name. The first was to prove that the domain name was "identical or confusingly similar to a trademark or service mark;" second, that Gage "has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the domain name;" and third, that the "domain name has been registered and is being used in bad faith."

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Gage's website states that it is the "unofficial Pensacola Christian College Information site," that aims to "…accurately describe PCC's rules and atmosphere so that prospective students may make an educated decision when selecting what college to attend."

Since 2001, the college has twice asked to "purchase the domain name, but Gage asked for a payment of $75,000 to either himself or a charity," according to the Pensacola News Journal.

The term cybersquatter is used to define those who are accused of attempting to make a hefty profit from individuals or companies by selling domain names that are distinctly similar to the name of a person or a company or institution's trademark.

In 1999, Congress passed the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act, which is a federal law that protects companies and institutions from cybersquatters who register and use a domain name with the intent of profiting from a trademark that belongs to someone else.

Amy Glenn, the chief communication officer for Pensacola Christian College, told The Christian Post on Monday afternoon that the college cannot comment on the litigation because Jeffrey Lutz, the college's attorney, has informed them that discussions are underway with Gage regarding the settlement, and they don't want to hinder any resolution between the two parties.

 

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