The man often described as the "inventor of spam" has his own writeup, so it only seems fair that the man responsible for setting one of the earliest legal precedents on cybersquatting on trademarked names should also have one.

In 1998, Dennis Toeppen, a resident of central Illinois, had registered over one hundred domain names of various well-known trademarks, including "", "", and various marks belonging to Delta Airlines, Neiman-Marcus, Eddie Bauer and Lufthansa. But it was the Panavision trademarks that got the ball rolling.

Upon learning of the URLs, Panavision's lawyers issued a cease and desist letter to Toeppen; Toeppen responded by saying he had the right to use the domain name (at the time, it hosted an image of Pana, Illinois -- thus, he argued, a "Pana vision"), but that he would sell Panavision the domain for $13,000. (I assume he figured this sum of money was less than what Panavision would have to pay to sue him.)

Panavision was not pleased, and filed suit. In the ensuing case of Panavision vs. Toeppen, the court ruled through a summary judgement that "buying a domain name with the purpose of selling it to the registered trademark holder was a violation of Section 43(c) of the Lanham Act as dilution of the trademark". Although similar results had been reached with cases brought by Panasonic and Intermatic, this was the first case to garner wide attention from the legal community, and has been quoted as precedent in cybersquatting cases today. It is an interesting side note that Panavision was not granted its requested award of attorneys' fees by the court; therefore, Panavision may indeed have spent more money defending their claim than they would have by giving in to Toeppen's demands.

Dennis Toeppen owns several businesses in the Champaign-Urbana area, including Suburban Express, a bus line to and from the Chicago suburbs, one I used quite frequently while I was at school. The man may have tried to extort money from businesses, but his buses were (usually) reliable...

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