Fledgling business owner Mark Gazeley didn't raise much of a stir when he tried to attract Web visitors to his Portland-based management company for coastal properties with site names such as gotorockaway.com and gotoneskowin.com.
But he got some unwelcome attention for his Ocean Fresh Vacation Rentals business when he recently registered gotodepoebay.com with Web hosting company GoDaddy.com.
If you're wondering why, carefully read the last four letters of the website promoting the 1,174-person Lincoln County town of Depoe Bay. What's that happen to spell?
The same four letters as the San Jose, Calif.,-based online auction site eBay, which started in 1995 and now lists millions of items a day, from vintage records and antique furniture to coveted PlayStation 3 consoles and taxidermy animals.
While gotodepoebay.com is thus far devoid of content, eBay sent Gazeley an email on Nov. 13 asking that he cease and desist from using the company trademark name in his Web address. The email, which came from firstname.lastname@example.org, said "While eBay respects your right of expression and your desire to conduct business on the Internet, eBay must enforce its own rights in order to protect its valuable and famous trademark.
"For these reasons, and to avoid consumer confusion, eBay must insist that you not use the domain name for any purpose.... Please confirm in writing that you will agree to resolve this matter as requested. If we do not receive confirmation from you that you will comply with our request, we will have no choice but to pursue all available remedies against you."
The email was signed "Sincerely, Edith, eBay Legal Department."
Gazeley, a 49-year-old Raleigh Hills resident, says "Edith" and eBay can stuff it.
"Most people, like my wife, who is concerned that I not get into a legal wrangle with a big company like eBay, would say to hell with it, get another name, but I think that's wrong," said Gazeley, who received the email from email@example.com 18 days after he registered gotodepoebay.com.
eBay spokeswoman Ali Croft confirmed that the email did come from eBay and that Edith is a real person who works in the company's legal department. "It's common practice that we send these out if we think that someone is diluting our trademark. We review everything and then send them out," she said.
A quick Google search of Edith and eBay reveals several, nearly identical emails from "Edith" to people running such websites as ebayless.com, rateeverythingebaystyle.com, egyptbay.com and ebaysucksbigtime.com.
Peter Vaughan Shaver, a Portland lawyer specializing in music law and other forms of intellectual property, tells WW that eBay's threatening email is "specious and over the top." In Shaver's opinion, Gazeley has no liability and "because [Depoe Bay is] the name of a city, there's nothing [eBay] could do about it."
As for Gazeley, his retort to the email from what he calls a "cyber bully" was to go out and register two more domain names.
"I thought it would be amusing to see if they would be egregious enough to object to AnythingInDepoeBay.com and EverythingInDepoeBay.com," he said, adding that he has no plans for these domain names other than to post any emails he gets from eBay.
"This fish rots from the head down," Gazeley says. "This is not an oversight, this is how they have chosen to do business."