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May 10th, 2000

Mattel v. MattL

Companies don’t own the web, but they’re sure acting like it. In a move that can only be described as brilliantly idiotic, Mattel – the monolithic toymaker – has sent a Cease and Desist order to a gentleman by the name of Matt Lavallee. Why? Look at his domain name.

Trying to go after true domain name squatters is nothing new for big business. Microsoft didn’t like, and I’m pretty sure that still points to a porno site. But this case is different. One look at, and you’ll say, "Oh, I went to a site by a fellow with the name of Matt L." There is no way in this universe that anyone would mistake his blog and personal information for the site of the Mattel Corporation. I mean, look at their site!

Why then, the C&D? Because "mattl" is "Mattel" minus one letter. That’s the only reason I can think of, and it’s a pretty lame one at that. Matt is not, insofar as I can tell, in any kind of competition with Mattel. He’s just got a personal site, and that’s it. He’s not making Cabbage Atch Kids, Brbie dolls, FishrPrice toys, or anything of the sort. And he is entitled to the ".com" suffix because Network Solutions lifted the restrictions on suffixes last year; companies are now using .net’s, for instance.

The only reason they’re going after him is because someone who knows someone at Mattel typoed their URL and said, "Hey, we could shut this guy down!" for no good reason. MattL’s site was registered in January 2000, whereas has been theirs since 1995. If they thought that many people would somehow forget a vowel, they could have purchased the poorly spelled domain name in 1995 as well.

It’s clear to anyone that, since MattL is not "squatting" on the name, Mattel has no case. But does this mean that any feasible (or unfeasible) derivative of a company’s trademark is also covered by that trademark? Scary.

On a similar note, Verizon (gesundheit!) is now going after the owners of 2600 Magazine after they registered the domain name (, as the story goes, is already owned – by Verizon!) Funny, because a few weeks ago one of the suggested new top level domains was ".sucks". No foolin’.

[I give full credit to the folks at MetaFilter for bringing this issue to my attention. Let’s get the word out on this!] -pm

Posted in Miscellaneous

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