MGM Resorts is suing an online casino for trademark infringement and cybersquatting.
A lawsuit filed in US District Court for the District of Nevada on Thursday accuses the unnamed operator of LiveMGM.com of incorporating the company’s trademarks, including its famous lion logo, for the purpose of “impersonating MGM and trading off of the substantial fame goodwill and consumer recognition” of the MGM name.
LiveMGM.com, a Chinese language site, is accused of pretending to be the real MGM in a attempt to “lure gamblers to gamble at its illicit website,” according to the filing.
The casino giant is seeking injunctive relief against the operator, as well as transfer of the domain name, plus compensatory and punitive damages, and attorneys’ fees and costs.
The filing notes that LiveMGM.com’s homepage even contains a false copyright notice at the bottom of the home page, stating “Copyright MGM Resorts International.”
Damages Hard to Retrieve
Casino giants like MGM are periodically required to defend their intellectual property rights aggressively against unscrupulous gambling websites. In 2015, Sheldon Adelson’s Las Vegas Sands Corp won a similar lawsuit against 35 Chinese online gambling websites that each appropriated the company’s logo and played fast and loose with its intellectual property.
This must have been particularly galling for Adelson whose hatred of online gambling is well documented.
LVS was awarded $2 million in damages and granted a permanent injunction against the websites. While the sites were taken down, it’s very unlikely those damages were ever recovered from the rogue online operator.
The owners of the websites applied for a privacy protection service when registering the urls, preventing themselves from ever being identified, which made it easy for them to disappear, very likely with players’ funds.
What Were They Smoking?
In 2008, Panama-based online gaming company Smart Answer lost a lawsuit for using MGM brand names, like Mirage, Bellagio, Circus Circus, and Mandalay Bay, in an attempt to lure patrons to its online casinos.
MGM won an injunction and $2.2 million in damages, a sum it chose not to pursue because of the expense involved and uncertainties about the potential for recovery. Station Casinos sued Smart Answer the following year for similar reasons.
But it’s not just online casinos that are sometimes accused of nabbing intellectual property. In 2015 MGM sued Nevada-based medical marijuana company M Life Inc for infringing its trademark rights. “M Life” also happens to be the name of MGM’s customer rewards program.
In that case, MGM claimed the brand similarity constituted “dilution by tarnishment,” and “created an association in the mind of the consuming product,” between the M Life loyalty program and the marijuana business, which, it said, further harmed the brand.
The medical marijuana company eventually agreed to change its name.