Go Daddy has been sued for allegedly infringing two patents when it sends email alerts to customers whose domain names and web hosting accounts are about to expire.
Its accuser is WhitServe, a patent licensing company based in Connecticut. It also runs NetDocket, a service designed to make renewing trademark registrations and patents easier.
The lawsuit also names Zygo, an optical components supplier, as a defendant, apparently for no reason other than the fact that it is also based in Connecticut and that its domain, zygo.com, is registered with Go Daddy.
"Zygo infringes one or more claims of the WhitServe patents because it has used and continues to use GoDaddy’s infringing products and services to maintain its web page," the complaint reads.
Go Daddy, like all major domain name registrars, sends periodic email reminders to its customers when their domains are due to expire, enabling them to click through to the Go Daddy website and renew their registrations to prevent their websites going dark.
WhitServe claims that this automated system infringes two of its US patents related to "professional services reminders", which date back to 1999 and 2001.
The company has already successfully licensed the patents to legal services and business information firms including CPA Global and Thomson Reuters.
The lawsuit, with its high-pressure tactic of naming customers in the suit, is part of a tested strategy.
WhitServe previously sued Computer Packages Inc, a trademark management services company, along with customers including Intel and EMC. Last year, it won a reported $8.4m judgment.
The suit could have repercussions on the whole domain name registrar and web hosting market.
Not only is Go Daddy far from unique in sending email alerts, but also ICANN is currently considering whether to make these reminders a mandatory part of its registrar contracts.
Go Daddy is the largest domain registrar and a major web hosting provider. It has millions of customers and around 50 million domain names under management. ®