Pirate sites regularly get into trouble for breaching copyright law. However, a new case filed in Hawaii is of an entirely different order. A well-known anti-piracy lawyer has filed a lawsuit against several YTS sites because the company he represents obtained a similarly-named trademark this year. The complaint mostly targets ‘clones’ and the real YTS is not named.
The Hawaiian company ’42 Ventures’ doesn’t immediately ring a bell with most torrent users. However, when we say that it owns the trademarks for ‘YTS’ and ‘Popcorn Time,’ interests will pique.
Founded last year, the company doesn’t operate a pirate site. On the contrary, it’s represented by Kerry Culpepper, a well-known anti-piracy lawyer who works with several Hollywood film companies.
Following its inception, 42 Ventures registered several piracy-related trademarks which it uses to target pirate sites and apps, including a popular Popcorn Time fork. The lawyer has used trademark complaints to suspend Twitter accounts, offering to lift the claims in return for a settlement.
As the trademark owner 42 Ventures can do this. However, the method is unusual, to say the least, and some wonder whether it would hold up in court. The Popcorn Time dispute was never litigated though and the developers didn’t pay a settlement either. The Twitter handle remains suspended.
A few days ago another trademark issue popped up. This time, 42 Ventures went directly to court where it filed an infringement lawsuit against the operators of YTS.ws, YTS.ms, YST.lt, YTS.tl, YTSag.me, YTS.ae, YTSmovies.cc and YTS-ag.com.
“Defendants distributed and/or streamed motion pictures in violation of US Copyright law to numerous individuals in Hawaii and the United States via their interactive websites under names identical and/or confusingly similar to Plaintiff’s registered trademark,” 42 Ventures writes.
The Hawaiian company obtained the YTS trademark earlier this year but wasn’t the first to use the YTS name of course. The name was first used by the original YIFY group which shut down years ago. Since then, others have used the brand, with YTS.mx turning it into one of the most-visited torrent sites.
Interestingly, YTS.mx is not mentioned in this lawsuit. This is noteworthy not just because it’s by far the largest YTS site, but also because 42 Ventures’ lawyer previously reached settlements with the torrent platform.
TorrentFreak contacted the lawyer to ask why YTS.mx was not targeted, but he prefers not to comment on the matter. We also asked how 42 Ventures uses the YTS trademark, but this question remains unanswered as well.
The legal paperwork doesn’t provide any further detail either. 42 Ventures simply write the following: “Plaintiff distributes licensed content to the public from a plurality of means including, but not limited to, websites.”
We previously learned that the company owns and operates Popcorntime4u.com through which it licenses and promotes YouTube videos. This site also includes a YTS link at the bottom, which links to the free app generator Appsgeyser. Perhaps that how 42 Ventures ‘uses’ the trademark.
Whether any of the defendants will show up in court is uncertain. The complaint lists them as being in Serbia, Russia, India and China, and all face a damages claim of $2 million for willful trademark infringement.
In addition to the damages, 42 Ventures also requests an injunction to prevent third-party intermediaries from facilitating access to the domains. This also applies to hosting companies, search engines, and domain registrars, which makes it likely that these sites will disappear if the injunction is granted.
A copy of the trademark infringement lawsuit filed by 42 Ventures at a Hawaii federal court is available here (pdf).
Many thanks to TorrentFreak for the breaking news.