Needless to say there is plenty of interest in the BitTorrent brand, and in some cases this demand is being exploited by third-party companies. One of the outfits that has operated in this space is the German-based Bittorrent Marketing GMBH.
The company owns the German and European trademark for Bittorrent and has several related domain names such as Bit-Torent.com, Bit-Torrent.com and Bitorrent.net. These domains have been mainly used for advertising, pointing people to paid products.
This has been a thorn in the side for BitTorrent Inc. who launched a lawsuit against its German nemesis two years ago. Since the German company and its owner Harald Hochmann failed to respond in court, BitTorrent is moving for a default judgment. In a filing submitted this week they demand $5.8 million in damages.
“BitTorrent filed this action to put an end to Defendant’s use of BitTorrent’s trademarks to promote what Defendant touts as an ‘advertising affiliate program’ used to ‘post ads and earn commissions..’,” the company explains.
According to the complaint the sites don’t link people to the free software, but to sites where people have to pay for a mere redirection to third-party services.
“For example, after paying over $50 to sign up for ultimate-downloadscenter.com, U.S. users are redirected to third-party websites of other digital media providers, like Netflix.com and Hulu.com, and invited to sign up for membership with those services.”
These “scams” are a problem for BitTorrent Inc. as they reflect negatively on the company’s brand. However, there is another issue with the domains. Since the German company owns a lot of domains based on misspellings, they occasionally get emails that are intended for the U.S. company.
“Hochmann admitted that his company registered many misspellings of BITTORRENT as or as part of domain names, and that, as a result of registering these domain names, he was able to intercept internal emails of BitTorrent when employees and executives of BitTorrent misspelled “bittorrent” in typing the domain name,” the company explains in its motion.
Among other emails, the owner of Bittorrent Marketing GMBH obtained internal financial projections from early 2008. Based on this intercepted communication Hochmann allegedly suggested that BitTorrent Inc. should buy the German company for millions of dollars.
Through the U.S. federal court BitTorrent Inc. now hopes to obtain an injunction against its German namesake. In their motion for summary judgment they demand a total of $5.8 million in damages and in addition BitTorrent Inc. wants ownership of all the BitTorrent related domain names.
“BitTorrent requests an award of statutory damages in the amount of $100,000 per domain name for each of the 58 Infringing Domain Names identified in the accompanying memorandum of points and authorities, for a total statutory damages award of $5,800,000.”
Interestingly, while Hochmann and his company failed to respond to the complaint in court, he did release a long statement and supporting documents which are available via the Bittorrent.eu domain.
In the statement Hochmann details his version of the dispute, which started more than a decade ago. Among other things, he disputes that he offered BitTorrent Inc. the opportunity to buy his company for millions, and he points to domain disputes his company won in the past against BitTorrent Inc.
Talking to TorrentFreak, Hochmann said that in a week or two he will issue a more detailed response explaining why not he, but BitTorrent Inc. are the “scammers.”
For the U.S. case this may be too late, due to the lack of response in the past it’s likely that the default judgment will be entered. It’s now up to the judge to decide what the exact punishment should be.