Audrey Dunham is comedian Jeff Dunham’s new (vintage 2012) wife. Before she married him, she was Audrey Murdick. Jeff’s ex-wife is Paige Dunham.
Paige is accused of registering AudreyDunham.com, AudreyDunham.net, AudreyDunham.us and AudreyDunham.biz.
Apparently though, she registered those names before Audrey Murdick became Audrey Dunham. But, according to the complaint filed by Audrey’s lawyers, she did so in anticipation that Murdick would change her name.
“Defendant knew at the time she registered the Accused Domains, that Plaintiff would soon change her name to AUDREY DUNHAM.” It also seems that Audrey Dunham filed for, but has not yet received, a trademark registration for the name. It also seems like whoever filed it didn’t have the best grasp of trademark law — since the registration application claims “The name(s), portrait(s), and/or signature(s) shown in the mark does not identify a particular living individual.”
Then what is the fuckin’ point? Audrey Dunham is just some abstract made up person? C’mon. Lets do this shit right, people!
Despite that, the case probably has legs.
Here’s some of the interesting stuff to watch in the case. First, I doubt that Audrey Dunham really has trademark rights (in the trademark sense) that attach to her name. Also, she has no trademark applications that have matured to registration (at least not as of the date of this post). In fact, she only has three 1(b) applications, which mean that she has an intent to use the purported marks.
In the event that Audrey Dunham is not found to actually have trademark rights to her name, then the Cybersquatting claim might go away — that’s the 15 U.S.C. § 1125(d) portion of the complaint. While not binding in this court, Salle v. Meadows holds that you have to possess trademark rights in a personal name for 1125(d) to apply. I personally disagree with that holding, and think that 15 U.S.C. § 1125(d) protects personal names as trademarks. But, I would feel that way — I lost on that issue in the Salle v. Meadows case! (Discussion here) So, I’d like to see that logic challenged in this case.
The next claim to look at is 15 U.S.C. § 8131. That used to be 15 U.S.C. § 1129, which Congress changed for no good reason. That statute requires the registrant to offer to sell the domain name to the “rightful” owner. That’s the allegation in the complaint — that Paige tried to sell the domains to Audrey for “tens of thousands” of dollars. If Audrey can prove that, she gets the domain names and her attorneys’ fees.
There are also unfair competition claims, which are really throwaways under these facts. I wouldn’t have wasted the paragraphs on them.
I’m a little confused why they filed this, but didn’t bother to include a claim under California Business and Professions Code sections 17525-17528. That statute has a lower standard of proof than 15 U.S.C. § 1125(d) and § 8131. Quite honestly, if all that Audrey wanted was the domain names, she probably could have filed this in state court, for a lot less money, and had a much easier time keeping it out of the media. (State court filings are a pain in the ass to find in California, while all federal pleadings are automatically available online).
From a public relations perspective, I think filing this in federal court wasn’t the greatest idea — but I’m not privy to discussions about the actual goals of the litigation.
I can’t understand why anyone would file a claim like this in California and not include a claim under the state personal domain name statute. Pretty bad oversight there, if you ask me.