Orange County – After months of mediation to resolve a dispute over the Groupon trademark and Groupon.com.au domain name, it appears that the Chicago-based online group-buying site will be forced to market itself to Australians as Stardeals.com.au. Groupon invites consumers to register on its website to receive daily emails from local businesses offering discounts and the discounts are activated once the retailers reach a pre-set minimum of customers willing to accept the deals. In return, Groupon receives a cut of the offer value.
Groupon is scheduled in August to appear in Federal Court as plaintiffs in a cyber-squatting and trademark infringement lawsuit against Groupon Pty Limited. Brothers Gabby and Hezi Leibovich, owners of Scoopon, an Australian website allegedly cloned from Groupon, went a step further by purchasing the Groupon.com.au domain name, took the company name Groupon Pty Limited, and are attempting to register the Groupon trademark (apparently filing for it just days before Groupon did). Not surprisingly, Groupon is a tad bit upset over the alleged infringement and domain squatting. After all, revenues for local group buying deals are expected to surpass $240 million this year.
In the two years since Groupon has become internationally known, more than 20 sites similar sites have launched in Australia alone. As for the cyber-squatting issue, this problem is well-known to Groupon. To capitalize on its popularity, opportunists around the world began buying up local Groupon domain names, with the hopes of forcing Groupon to buy the domains at insane prices. In fact, Groupon reluctantly offered to purchase the Groupon.com.au domain name and trademark from the Leibovich brothers for $286,000, which they initially accepted and then eventually turned down. It is Groupon’s belief that the Leibovichs’ will only sell the domain name and trademark if it is willing to purchase the entire Scoopon business from them. Scoopon is the second largest local group-buying website, with 25 percent of the market.
Groupon’s lawsuit, which sites domain squatting, trademark infringement and unfair business practices, seeks unspecified damages. In the meantime, Australians will be able to find local Groupon deals at Stardeals.com.au.