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Master of their domain

Posted by Eric Wilbur, Boston.com Staff  February 22, 2012 08:23 AM

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Eh, who needs a website in 2012 anyway?

If you're looking for information about the Red Sox' new spring training facilities, certainly do not check out jetbluepark.com. Just don't. OK?

You did, didn't you?

We warned you.

That little trick was the brainchild of Fort Myers resident Eric Engelman - a Cubs fan - who purchased the domain last March for a whopping $8 when it was announced that JetBlue would have the naming rights to the new spring home of the Red Sox.

Re-directing the URL to Yankees.com though doesn't seem to be sitting well with Sox officials. According to the Fort Myers News Press, Engelman never intended to approach the Red Sox about purchasing the domain off him, and he is not making any profit off it. The News-Press' David Dorsey caught up with local attorney Bill Noonan to see if MLB Advanced Media or the Red Sox would have a case if they intended to pursue one.

In 1999, Congress passed the Federal Lanham Act, which was designed to prevent "cybersquatting" on Internet domain names.
"The law was designed to give trademark owners strong rights under federal law to those who were squatting on similar domain names for other purposes," said Noonan, who specializes in intellectual property and trademark infringement cases. "Are they doing something not for a legitimate purpose but to extort a company"

"Now this is an interesting case, because there was no JetBlue Park at the time he bought the domain name. I'm not sure how this would be litigated. This isn't in bad taste.

"It has a certain degree of playfulness and humor and satire, that kind of a thing."

Pursuing any trademark infringement would further be complicated, Noonan said, in that four businesses are involved. Lee County owns the land on which the ballpark sits. The Boston Red Sox are leasing that land for 30 years. JetBlue bought naming rights to the stadium, and MLB Advanced Media operates all of MLB's online endeavors.

Basically, since the taxpayers paid for the park, the Red Sox may not have any right to the URL. Besides, as Engelman said, "If the Red Sox or JetBlue had wanted that domain name, they could have bought it."

For $8. That's a deal even these cost-cutting Red Sox wouldn't pass up.

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About the Author

Eric Wilbur is a Boston.com sports columnist who is still in awe of what Dana Kiecker pulled off that one time in Toronto. He lives in the Boston area with his wife and three children. Comments and suggestions for the best Buffalo wing spots are encouraged.

Contact Eric Wilbur by e-mail or follow him on Twitter.

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