NORMAN — Although University of Oklahoma officials occasionally come across websites that use their trademarks without authorization, cybersquatting lawsuits like the one the university is waging against a Dallas man are rare.
The university is suing Dallas resident Hugh Michael Glenn, 43, saying he violated federal cybersquatting laws when he registered the Internet domain name www.soonernetwork.com to sell it for a profit later. Officials also claim Glenn infringed on the university's trademark by using the term “Sooner” without authorization.
But Anil Gollihalli, the university's vice president and general counsel, said cases like this are unusual.
The university handles cases like this one in a number of ways, he said, but they're almost always solved informally without going to court.
Generally, when the university comes across a website using a domain name that's similar to one of OU's trademarks, that site falls in one of three categories: a noncommercial site run by OU fans, a retail site selling OU-branded merchandise, or cybersquatters who are parking a domain name in the hopes of selling it at a profit.
In cases when a fan hosts a site, the university generally asks the fan to post a disclaimer on the site saying the site isn't affiliated with the university.
“Most often, the university is appreciative of the owner's interest and support, and the owner is happy to oblige the request for a disclaimer,” Gollihalli said.
In cases where the owner of the site is profiting, the university might ask for a similar disclaimer, he said, or it could license the trademarks used on the site or try to take control of the domain name. The avenue the university pursues depends on the site's content and the cooperation of the owner, he said, but in almost every case, the situation is resolved without court action.
In the case of www.soonernetwork.com, OU filed the lawsuit in Oklahoma City federal court Feb. 6. The lawsuit alleges Glenn bought the domain name with the intent of selling it to OU at a profit, a process known as cybersquatting. The university is seeking an injunction barring Glenn from using any of OU's trademarks in the future.
The university also is seeking $100,000 in damages, any profits Glenn has received from the website and rights to the www.soonernetwork.com domain name.
On Monday afternoon, the website at the address www.soonernetwork.com appeared to be a service that connects Oklahomans with eldercare providers. The site included a form where patients may enter their contact information, but doesn't include contact information for the network.
By Tuesday afternoon, that website had been taken down and replaced by a placeholder site that includes a message saying the domain has been registered.