United States District Court, S.D. New York
OPINION & ORDER
A. Engelmayer United States District Judge
Raymond Wang, proceeding pro se, brings this action
seeking injunctive, monetary, and declaratory relief for
claims arising from alleged cybersquatting and reverse
domain-name hijacking in violation of the Anticybersquatting
Consumer Protection Act ("ACPA"), Pub. L. No.
106-113, 113 Stat. 1536 (1999) (codified in scattered
sections of Title 15 of the United States Code). On December
29, 2016, this Court entered default judgment as to liability
against the three defendants: Societe du Figaro, Nameshield,
and Anne Morin (together, "Figaro"). The Court then
referred the case to Magistrate Judge James L. Cott for an
inquest into damages, if any, and a report and recommendation
as to whether Wang is due any other relief. Wang and
defendants (who appeared after default judgment had been
entered) made submissions on these issues.
January 26, 2018, Judge Cott issued a detailed, thoughtful,
and persuasive Report and Recommendation (the
"Report"). He recommended that Wang not be awarded
injunctive relief or monetary damages, but that, subject to a
possible issue of mootness, he be awarded limited declaratory
relief. On February 9, 2018, Wang submitted his objections to
the Report. Dkt. 42 ("Objections"). On February 22,
2018, Figaro filed a response to Wang's Objections. Dkt
43 ("Def. Response"). On March 14, 2018, Wang filed
a reply to defendant's response. Dkt 44 ("PI.
reasons that follow, the Court adopts the Report in
substantial part and dismisses Wang's remaining claims as
September 10, 2015, Wang registered the domain name
<lefigaro.news> with the domain name registrar
Name.com. Report at 1, 5; see Dkt. 2
("Compl.") ¶¶ 8-9. Wang alleges that he
registered that domain referencing the 1786 Mozart opera
Le Nozze di Figaro, for purposes of creating "a
general performance arts news and opera blog." Compl.
¶¶ 8-13. He alleges that he was unaware that the
words "le figaro" also form the name of the French
newspaper, Le Figaro. Id. ¶¶ 13, 15
Societe du Figaro S.A. is a French corporation headquartered
in Paris. Report at 2. Societe du Figaro owns and publishes
Le Figaro, which defendants hold out as France's
"premier daily general-interest newspaper."
Id. Societe du Figaro owns several trademarks that
include the words "Le Figaro" and more than 200
domain names that include variations on the terms "Le
Figaro" or "Figaro." Id.
September 29, 2015, Nameshield, on behalf of Societe du
Figaro, commenced an arbitral proceeding under the Uniform
Domain-Name Dispute-Resolution Policy ("UDRP")
against Wang. Report at 6. In its UDRP complaint, Societe du
Figaro argued that the domain name <lefigaro.news> was
identical to its "LE FIGARO" trademark.
Id. On November 9, 2015, the UDRP panel issued a
decision finding that Wang had "no right or legitimate
interests in the Domain Name and the Domain Name had been
registered and used in bad faith" and directed that the
domain name <lefigaro.news> be transferred to Societe
du Figaro. Id. at 8. The parties dispute whether the
UDRP panel's order was effectuated such that
<lefigaro.news> was actually transferred from Wang to
Societe du Figaro. Id. at 9; see Objections
November 30, 2015, Wang commenced this action by filing a
complaint alleging that defendants violated the
cybersquatting and reverse domain-name hijacking provisions
of the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act.
See Compl. In his complaint, Wang sought a
declaration that his use of the domain name was lawful,
injunctive relief prohibiting the transfer of the domain name
to the defendants, and damages caused by defendants'
reverse hijacking. Compl. ¶ 2.
December 29, 2016, after defendants were served but failed to
appear, this Court entered a default judgment in Wang's
favor as to liability. Dkt. 18. The Court based its entry of
default judgment on its independent review of Wang's
Complaint, which, the Court concluded, had adequately pled
facts supporting the exercise of subject-matter and personal
jurisdiction. Id., at 4. The Court then referred the
matter to Judge Cott for an inquest as to damages and/or
other potential remedies. Dkt. 19.
Judge Cott recognized, however, a significant development had
occurred during the pendency of his review: On July 10, 2017,
a third party named Thomas Lextrait registered the
"lefigaro.news" domain name. Report at 10;
see Dkt. 39. As Judge Cott noted in his January 2018
Report, that fact presented a substantial question of
mootness as to the one area of relief, a declaration, to
which Judge Cott found Wang otherwise entitled. Alerted by
Judge Cott to that concern, the Court now finds that this
development-the registration of the domain name by a third
party-precludes granting declaratory relief.
magistrate judge has issued a Report and Recommendation, a
district court may "accept, reject, or modify, in whole
or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the
magistrate judge." 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). To accept
the portions of a report to which no timely objection has
been made, "a district court need only satisfy itself
that there is no clear error on the face of the record."
Acevedo v. Lempke, No. 10 Civ. 5285 (PAE) (HBP),
2014 WL 4651904, at *3 (S.D.N.Y.Sept. 17, 2014) (quoting
King v. Greiner, No. 02 Civ. 5810 (DLC), 2009 WL
2001439, at *4 (S.D.N.Y. July 8, 2009)). When a timely and
specific objection has been made, the court is obligated to
review the contested issues de novo. Fed. R. Civ. P.
72(b)(3); Hynes v. Squillace, 143 F.3d 653, 656 (2d
Cir. 1998). But when the objections simply reiterate previous
arguments or make only conclusory statements, the court
reviews the report and recommendation for clear error.
Dickerson v. Conway, No. 08 Civ. 8024 (PAE) (FM),
2013 WL 3199094, at *1 (S.D.N.Y. June 25, 2013); see Kirk
v. Burge, 646 F.Supp.2d 534, 538 (S.D.N.Y. 2009)
(collecting cases). This is so even in the case of a.pro
se petitioner. Cf. Molefe v. KLMRoyal Dutch
Airlines, 602 F.Supp.2d 485, 487 (S.D.N.Y. 2009).
Cott's thorough Report recommends that the Court deny
Wang the majority of the relief he seeks. The Report
recommends, however, that the Court issue a declaratory
judgment with respect to one of Wang's two reverse-domain
name hijacking claims. Specifically, the Report recommends
concluding that Wang established a claim under the ACPA only
for reverse domain-name hijacking, pursuant to 15 U.S.C.
§ 1114(2)(D)(v). Under that provision, which provides
for equitable and declaratory relief but not damages, the
Report recommends granting Wang a subset of the declaratory
relief he seeks: to wit, a limited declaration that
Wang's use of the <lefigaro.com> domain name was