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Escort service trademark not covered

All trade has gone global nowadays, we hear, but one business wasn’t global enough to gain protection under U.S. laws against cybersquatting, in a new decision in Alexandria federal court.

“Tober and Skeat” sounds like a couple of barristers. But in fact, they are a married couple who in 2001 founded “Agency Provocateur,” an introduction and escort agency that operates in London, according to Alexandria U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema’s Sept. 23 opinion in Tober v. Aprov.com.

The couple sued under the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act, asking that the defendant domain name “Aprov.com” be found in default and transferred. They allegedly used that name for their escort business until 2007, when they think someone got access to their e-mail and altered the log-in to cut them off from the domain name manager for their site.

The plaintiffs managed – just barely – to establish a common law trademark right in the “Aprov” mark used for the “Agency Provocateur” Web site, according to the court opinion. The plaintiffs nevertheless could not state a claim under the ACPA, the judge said, because they failed to allege that the Aprov mark “was used in commerce in the United States or used in foreign trade with United States citizens.”

Maybe they just didn’t want to hand over the e-equivalent of their black book of clients.

For the protection of the public, we are trying to follow the court’s careful practice of not including live links to the Web sites named in the Tober opinion. Be advised, if you’re reading this at work, checking out the sites may be a good way to test how well your firm’s filtering software screens explicit adult material.
By Deborah Elkins

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