Erling Løken Andersen's blog

A blog by Erling Løken Andersen on random entrepreneurial topics.

  • Truet med millionsøksmål av Donald Trump

    Jeg har vært uheldig nok å havne i en del rettstvister. I 2009 havnet jeg i en 6 år lang skattestrid med Skatt Øst (som jeg til slutt vant). I 2014 lanserte jeg Utmelding.no – en elektronisk utmeldingstjeneste for Kirken – som Kirken reagerte veldig negativt på (nærmere 2 år senere lanserte Kirken sin egen). Og nylig ble jeg involvert i et gruppesøksmål på 50 millioner mot Westerdals reklameskole. Det mange ikke vet, er at jeg og startupen jeg ledet på den tiden – Biip.no – også havnet i en pikant rettstvist med selveste Donald Trump.

    trump

    Donald Trump er på alles lepper for tiden. Som republikanernes presidentkandidat er han allestedværende; på TV, i radio og på nett. Mitt første – og hittil eneste – (virtuelle) møte med mannen og hans folk skjedde i for 5 år siden, i 2011. Bakhistorien er omtrent som følger:

    I 2005 startet jeg og to kamerater nettsamfunnet Biip.no. Biip.no ble raskt en suksess og samlet 500.000 medlemmer i Norge. I 2008 endte vi opp med å selge butikken til Egmont Serieforlaget og TV2 for 75 millioner kroner.

    Noen år etterpå var planen å lansere Biip.no i utlandet. Vi trengte imidlertid et nytt domenenavn, da “Biip.com” allerede var opptatt. I den forbindelse kjøpte vi 20-30 generiske domenenavn og håpet å kunne bruke et av disse til den internasjonale lanseringen. Et av domenenavnene vi kjøpte og vurderte var “Trumpx.com”.

    Ikke lenge etterpå tok “The Donald” og hans folk affære. I januar 2011 mottar vi følgende brev fra en viss Alexis L. Robinson, Donald Trumps in-house advokat. I brevet skriver hun:

    Dear Mr. Andersen,

    I am writing on behalf of Donald J. Trump, the well-known businessman, real estate developer, and star of the television show The Apprentice.

    The Trump® name is internationally known and famous as a result of Mr. Trump’s long, extensive, and high-profile business activities. Mr. Trump is the owner of the Trump@ name as a trademark, as well as hundreds of trademarks that incorporate the Trump® name, all of which we scrupulously protect. With this background in mind, it has come to my attention that you have registered the domain name www.TrumpX.com, and redirected that to www.biip.no. Your unauthorized use of such domain name constitutes willful trademark infringement and cyber piracy. Such unauthorized use of the Trump@ name as described above will inevitably cause confusion in the public’s mind and dilute and tarnish the value of the Trump@ mark. Your use of the Trump® mark violates Mr. Trumps common law and federal trademark rights, including, inter alia, under Section 43(a) of the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. 1125. The La Act provides at Mr. Trump may recover (1) your profits, (2) any damages sustained by Mr. Trump, and (3) the costs of bringing an action against you (which may be tripled by the reviewing court).

    Additionally, your illegal registration and use of the infringing domain name subjects you to liability under the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act, 15. U.S.C. 1125(d) (“ACPA”). The ACPA renders a person liable in a civil action who, in bad faith, registers a domain name that is identical or confusingly similar to the trademark of another person. Your liability to Mr. Trump under the ACPA is in the amount of up to $100,000 per domain name registration. 15 U.S.C. 1117(d).

    På dette tidspunktet var vi en relativt liten startup i Oslo, Norge – og bare brevets innledning satte en skikkelig støkk i hele Biip.no-gjengen. Heldigvis viste Donald Trump seg allerede på dette tidspunktet som en storsinnet og relativt gem fyr:

    Mr. Trump considers this to be a very serious matter and has authorized our legal team to take all necessary and appropriate actions to bring an immediate halt to your blatant and unauthorized use of his trademark. In the interest of avoiding what will certainly be a costly litigation process for you, we are prepared to offer you the one-time opportunity to rectify this matter by providing us with your prompt written assurances, to be received no later than January 27, 2011, that:

    (I) you have immediately ceased all uses of Mr. Trump’s name and the Trump@ trademark; and you agree not to associate Mr. Trump’s name and/or the Trump@ trademark with you or your commercial activities in any way, at any point in the future; and you have terminated the redirection from www.TrumpX. com, to www.biip.no; and you will immediately transfer your infringing domain name to my client.

    If we do not receive these assurances by January 27, 2011, we will pursue all remedies available to us at law or in equity against you.

    I look forward to your prompt written response. Please contact me at your earliest convenience if you would like to discuss this matter further. This letter is sent without waiver of or prejudice to my clients rights with respect to this matter, all of which are hereby expressly reserved.

    Sincerly,
    Alexis L. Robinson

    (Hele brevet fra 2011 kan leses i PDF-utgave her)

    Biip.no-kontoret i 2011.

    Biip.no-kontoret i 2011. Foran: Jesper Thøgersen. Som leseren ser er det svært begrensede eiendeler å inndra i kjølvannet av en eventuell Trump-rettsak, foruten Jespers Super Mario-figurer.

     

    På dette tidspunktet hadde jeg ingen juridisk utdannelse, men etter å ha snakket med de andre gutta i Biip.no ble vi enige om at vi ikke bare kunne legge oss flate for “bølla fra New York”. Vi svarte derfor:

    Hi Alexis, 

    thank you for your mail.

    We acknowledge that the domain is indeed similar to Mr. Trumps name, but please be advised that the word “Trump” is also a verb: “trumpedtrump·ingtrumps”.

    Please see the dictionary for further uses:
    http://www.thefreedictionary.com/trump

    Further more, the ending “X” is also added to the word, making the full wording “TrumpX”. This serves to differentiate the word clearly from both the trademark “Trump” and the more generic verb “to trump”.

    To the best of our knowledge, you have not trademarked “TrumpX” and/or “Trump X”, and as such, in my personal opinion and presumably by Norwegian law of which Biip.no AS if governed, you bear no rights to the domain. 

    The domain is temporarily forwarded to Biip.no whilst we are working on the actual website; which is to be an international community website. 

    Both TrumpX.com and Biip.no are owned by the Norwegian company Biip.no AS, a social networking company similar to that of American “Facebook”. Biip.no AS had a total revenue of nearly $2 mill. USD in 2010.

    Please be advised that it is not our intention to “cybersquat” the domain and/or take advantage of Mr. Trump’s prominent standing. We bought the freely available domain name for our international community project, and by default, I think it is wrong for Mr. Trump to try to powerhouse us into submission. 

    Please advise your Client of our standing, and should there be a suitable opportunity, please also compliment him of the hit-series “The Apprentice”, which has been running in Norway for the past 3 years. It’s a very crafty piece of entertainment. 

    Kind regards,
    Erling Andersen
    CEO
    Biip.no AS

    trump1

    Det hører med til historien at det aldri ble noe av vårt TrumpX-prosjekt. Og vi hørte aldri noe mer fra bølla Trump – eller hans mange advokater. Men det er interessant å merke seg at den oppførselen Donald Trump har utvist ved presidentvalget i USA, var tydelig for et lite knippe gründere i Norge allerede i januar 2011.

1 comment
  • Simon P
    08th Nov 2016

    Great read. Would have been a great PR stunt if you had made it to court with Trump 🙂

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