Dispute Over the Trademark “Green Jacket” Continues
On January 10, 2018, Green Jacket Auctions filed suit in Georgia federal court and back on January 2, 2018, Green Jacket Auctions filed an identical suit in Florida federal court. Both suits seek to prevent the transfer of the domain name “greenjacketauctions.com” from Green Jacket Auctions to Augusta National, Inc., host of the annual Masters Golf Tournament.
Green Jacket Auctions is an online golf memorabilia auctioneer and appraiser. The company was formed in 2006 by its two, and only employees, Ryan Carey and Bob Zafian. According to their website, “Green Jacket Auctions has bought, sold and appraised golf memorabilia for PGA Tour stars, Major Championship winners, golf museums, famous golf clubs, and celebrities … [they have] been discussed on The Golf Channel, and … Sports Collectors Digest and Golf International Magazine.” According to the suit, Ryan Carey registered the domain name on February 27, 2006 and the company has consistently advertised their services under the domain name since April 2006. In February 2006, Augusta National, Inc. did not have a registered United States federal trademark for “green jacket,” or anything confusingly similar, but in 2012 they registered the mark “green jacket.”
Augusta National, Inc. is a Georgia corporation that operates Professional Golf Association’s world famous Masters Tournament where the winning golfer receives the infamous green sport jacket. On December 21, 2017, an arbitration panel issued a decision that would force Green Jacket Auctions to transfer their domain name to Augusta National, Inc. Green Jacket Auction’s suit seeks to prevent this transfer by arguing that the domain name does not violate the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act (ACPA). Under the act, trademark holders have a cause of action against anyone who, with a bad faith intent to profit from the goodwill of another’s trademark, registers, traffics in, or uses a domain name that is identical to, or confusingly similar to a distinctive mark, or dilutive of a famous mark. According to Green Jacket Auctions, their domain name is generic, or at the very least descriptive, and it was not registered in order to prevent Augusta National Inc. from using the phrase “green jacket” or for the purpose of disrupting business. Nor has Green Jacket Auctions intentionally attempted to attract, for commercial gain, Internet users to its website by creating a likelihood of confusion. According to Green Jacket Auctions, they merely used the domain name based on some of the products they would be auctioning.
Green Jacket Auction’s suit further alleges that Augusta National, Inc. is attempting to “hijack” the domain name by asserting a trademark claim. Ryan Carey said, “Augusta National is going to great lengths to shut down our successful business … there are over 100 domains that incorporate the phrase ‘green jacket,’ yet Augusta National singled out our domain.” He continued, “This is yet another example of a powerful organization attempting to bully a smaller business and legitimate registrant into giving up a domain name that was legally acquired in good faith.” According to the suit, Green Jacket Auction spent considerable time and money establishing its online auction website and the domain name is one of its most valuable assets.