In an interesting decision, the 11th Circuit ruled that 3M did not exhibit bad faith in continuing to renew a domain name that they did not use and which consisted of a trademark they previously abandoned. In Southern Grouts and Mortars, Inc. v. 3M Co., No. 08-15850 (11th Cir. July 23, 2009), the plaintiff really wanted 3M’s “diamondbrite.com” domain name. Even though it wasn’t using it, 3M refused to sell it to Southern Grouts, so Southern Grouts sued for cybersquatting under the ACPA (15 U.S.C. § 1125(d)).
3M previously acquired the DIAMOND BRITE mark and the domain name from another company, but quickly stopped using the mark, and a short time later stopped displaying content on the “www.diamondbrite.com” website. The PTO in due course cancelled 3M's DIAMOND BRITE registrations for failure to show continuing use. 3M kept renewing the domain name, however, for two reasons: (1) it was concerned that someone would pick it up and use it in a manner that could be confused with 3M’s unrelated DIAMOND GRADE mark; and (2) it had a corporate policy of continuing to renew its registered domain names indefinitely unless there was an explicit corporate decision not to.
The 11th Circuit held that on these facts, 3M could not be held to have acted in bad faith, a necessary element of an action under the ACPA.