LOS ANGELES — Accused of trafficking in unauthorized trademarks by allowing customers to buy parked pages and collect a portion of revenue from advertising partners on a pay-per-click basis, GoDaddy faces an uphill legal battle brought on by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences that could potentially mean millions in damages if it loses.
The Academy's suit could spur additional litigation against GoDaddy — including claims possibly waged by online adult companies that find their marks being similarly poached and exploited.
Given the high stakes, GoDaddy counsel in the past two weeks have gone on the super-offensive to counter the Academy's claims, dragging the Los Angeles federal judge who is hearing the case into the mix.
GoDaddy attorneys this week filed a motion to recuse U.S. District Judge Audrey Collins, alleging that multiple Academy officials privately refer to her as "the Academy's judge," and that she has become such a favorite of the Academy that when its lawsuit against GoDaddy was originally assigned to another judge, the Academy had it moved.
Using all of its legal ammunition, GoDaddy even went on to say that the judge also is bias for the Academy because Collins' daughter is an actress who had small parts in "Deception," "The Producers" and other films.
The motion to recuse Collins was constructed in an affidavit of GoDaddy's general counsel, Nima Kelly.
Kelly, in the 16-page affidavit blasting the federal jurist, told the court that "GoDaddy does not take the filing of this motion lightly."
"GoDaddy has never previously filed a motion to recuse a federal judge," Kelly said in the affidavit. "While I anticipate that [the Academy] will claim that this motion is being filed for strategic purposes, I can assure the court that it is not.
"This motion is made because the totality of the circumstances demonstrates a bias, or at least an appearance of bias, by Judge Collins in favor of [the Academy] such that a reasonable person with knowledge of all the facts would believe that her impartiality might be questioned."
Kelly said GoDaddy began its probe of the judge after one of the opposing lawyers sent a letter to a GoDaddy investor touting that Collins "has handled all the Academy's federal litigation for more than 15 years."
Another federal jurist, U.S. District Judge Dale S. Fischer in Los Angeles, will decide on GoDaddy's recusal motion.
Scottsdale, Ariz.-based GoDaddy has infringed on and deliberately appropriated at least 122 of their marks with such domain names as OscarRedCarpet.com, OscarActor.com, AcademyAwards2015.com and BillyCrystal2012Oscars.com, according to an amended lawsuit filed last month.
The suit, filed at U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, seeks a restraining order over the practice of scooping up the Academy's trademarks and appropriating them through parked pages. The suit also seeks $100,000 in damages for every domain allegedly poached, as well as attorneys fees.
In the suit, the Academy claims that GoDaddy knew it was harming trademark holders, such as its organization, and has even come up with a patent that recognizes the need for systems that identify domains that could yield financial benefits.
GoDaddy registers and monetizes parked domains through its Parked Page Service and Cash Parking Program.
GoDaddy parks registrants' pages and places advertisements on web pages with Parked Page Service; Go Daddy is granted the right to collect and retain all revenue generated by the advertising.
The Cash Parking Program service permits domain registrants to pay a fee to allow GoDaddy through its advertising partner to place ads on the registrant's web page. The revenue generated through that advertising is then split between the registrant, GoDaddy and GoDaddy's advertising partner.
GoDaddy officials did not respond to XBIZ for comment on Thursday.