`Cybersquatter’ now wants to net $35,000 for glenwoodsprings.com | PostIndependent.com

`Cybersquatter’ now wants to net $35,000 for glenwoodsprings.com

The man who owns the domain name http://www.glenwoodsprings.com and reportedly linked it to a porn website has been involved in landmark cases involving so-called cybersquatting.The Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association, which has been seeking to purchase the Glenwood name from Dennis Toeppen, discovered his national reputation upon conducting an Internet search of his name.The discovery comes as Toeppen has hiked the asking price on eBay for the name from $20,000 to $35,000 and extended the deadline for bidding through Saturday.Debi Billings, who built and maintains the chamber’s website, has been communicating with Toeppen by e-mail this week in an attempt to negotiate a deal for the domain name’s purchase.”He is a very unpleasant person to attempt to talk with,” said Billings.Indeed, at one point, after Billings had offered $5,000 for the name, he responded, “GET YOUR HEAD OUT OF YOUR A–. THE MINIMUM BID IS $29,000.”The $29,000 minimum was established after an anonymous bidder offered $9,000 more than the original minimum. Marianne Virgili, executive director of the Chamber Resort Association, complained to eBay, because that was the only bid and she suspected Toeppen might have been the bidder, which would be in violation of eBay’s rules prohibiting the owner of an item from raising bids on it.Now no bidders are being indicated by eBay, but the asking price is even higher, Virgili said.In one website posting, Serena C. Hunn, of the Ford Marrin Esposito Witmeyer & Gleser law firm on Wall Street, calls Toeppen the “poster child for the cybersquatter.” Hunn referred to cybersquatters as those who go about registering famous names and “holding them for ransom.”Hunn writes that Toeppen gained notoriety after registering Panavision.com, which consisted of a collection of photographs of the city of Pana, Ill. Panavision International later attempted to register the same name, and Toeppen offered to sell it for $13,000.Panavision International successfully took legal action against Toeppen, convincing a court he had violated the Federal Trademark Dilution Act.According to Hunn, Toeppen also had registered names similar to Delta Airlines, Neiman Marcus, Eddie Bauer and more 100 other trademarks.While Toeppen hasn’t always won out in legal arenas, he did last year against the Glenwood chamber. The chamber has been trying to buy the domain name since 1994, but was getting nowhere with Toeppen, who owns the domain through an Illinois business called College Transportation Inc. Last year, the chamber entered an arbitration process through ICANN, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers.But the chamber couldn’t convince the arbiters to turn over the domain name. They were concerned about First Amendment protections and exclusivity over geographic names.Following its recent coverage of the domain name dispute, the Post Independent received a response from Toeppen’s website, http://www.inert.com. It crowed, “Thanks for all the free publicity. It is very likely to drive the price of glenwoodsprings.com higher.””We are not aware of any porn link,” the response added.The link no longer exists. But Billings said dozens of people previously saw it, and only one person could have put it there: the owner of the site.Toeppen also has removed a statement at glenwoodsprings. com declaring, “This domain is ON FIRE!” That reference had appeared after the start of the Coal Seam Fire, which destroyed dozens of homes and structures in the Glenwood area.The response from http://www.inert.com also said no one in its office recalls speaking to Billings. But she and Virgili said the chamber has been in contact with Toeppen for years, but he has rebuffed their attempts to communicate with him.”Now he responds,” she said. “It’s not very nice, but at least you hear from him.”She said Toeppen initiated recent e-mailed discussions, alerting her that the site was going up for sale on eBay.Billings responded with the chamber’s standing $5,000 offer.”We are very interested in the domain name. …” she wrote at one point.”So am I. That is why I have it,” he responded.He also asked in one of his messages, “Do you really think it would be available for the same price AFTER litigation as BEFORE litigation? If you do, I suggest you resign your post immediately because you are totally unqualified to do anything in the business realm.”Billings said in explaining the $5,000 offer, “since he had contacted me personally by e-mail … I was in hopes he was ready to sell it (for) the money we had available to purchase it. …”Billings said Toeppen apparently is blocking further e-mails she has attempted to send to him.She said of his recent e-mails, “They’re pretty interesting. It shows what the guy is like.”As for the $35,000 asking price for the domain name, she said, “At this point it would just make me sick for that guy to make that kind of money off of it.”Said Virgili, “I don’t think we realized what a big operator we were dealing with.”She added, “I don’t know that we would ever be able to afford to purchase that domain name from him.”She also doubts whether the chamber, Glenwood Springs and its business community would want to pay money to someone such as Toeppen.”They would feel it’s extortion,” she said.If Toeppen came down to the price range the chamber believes it can afford to acquire the name, Virgili would have to talk to the chamber board about whether to buy it, she said.The name has marketing value, but most search engines now do a good job of routing web users to the chamber, Virgili said.

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