Oculus Fights Fan Group Over OculusRift.Com

Oculus Fights Fan Group Over OculusRift.Com

Oculus Rift is attempting to seize the oculusrift.com domain from the group of developers currently using it, according to documentation obtained by Kotaku.

It's a battle that the VR company is almost guaranteed to win, given their ownership of the "Oculus Rift" trademark. According to the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP), the internationally-recognised process for squabbles over website domains, one person or company can wage legal warfare against another if a domain is "identical or confusingly similar to a trademark or service mark in which the complainant has rights."

Oculus says they deserve the URL, arguing in their UDRP complaint that oculusrift.com's "use and exploitation of the Oculus Marks constitutes cybersquatting, trademark infringement, trademark dilution, and/or unfair competition in violation of applicable law."

A developer named Ivan Smirnov first registered oculusrift.com in June of 2012, not long after the Oculus Rift prototype was first shown off. (Oculus launched their high-profile Kickstarter campaign that August.) Since then, oculusrift.com has hosted developer forums for fans, hobbyists, and professionals working on games for the VR hardware. As of this past weekend, the forums have been shut down.

Smirnov first contacted me about the domain dispute last week, saying he felt betrayed that Oculus was going after what he says is a group of dedicated fans.

"We're a team of VR enthusiasts," he said in an email. "We considered ourselves a part of the Oculus developer community. We've been building a developer-oriented community on social media and oculusrift.com for the last couple of years. As volunteers, [we spent] our personal time helping the company. For example, our Google Plus community has about the same amount of subscribers as the official one. If not more. We're not selling anything. All our social media outlets/websites had zero advertisement."

Their social media pages use curious titles -- their Facebook page, for example, is called Oculus Rift VR Headset and occasionally copies messages from the official Oculus Facebook, a fact that's brought up in the VR company's complaint against the domain holders. Their Google Plus page is misleadingly called +OculusRiftOfficial.

Oculus, which was purchased by Facebook early last year, currently uses the domain oculus.com. The VR company and other various parties have tried to obtain oculusrift.com in the past, according to Smirnov, but he never came close to a deal with anyone. "I've been receiving requests from different people who wanted to buy traffic or buy the domain itself," he said. "Of course we never did that, we have no ads and we don't do this for profit. We're fans and developers, not cybersquatters. "

Now, Oculus's lawyers have filed an official complaint through the UDRP.

"Oculus lawyers contacted us saying that we should transfer our project 'to their client now and for no money,'" Smirnov said. "When we refused, they responded with a threat of legal action. In fact, they're so generous that they will 'give us some amount of time to move your content to another domain.'"

Smirnov says he'd asked for $US58,000 in exchange for the domain, but Oculus's lawyers turned down the offer. He's upset by what he views as a betrayal of the developer community -- "People should know how ruthless and greedy the company has become," he said in his first email to me -- and he says the website made it clear that this was an unofficial domain.

Oculus declined to comment on this story.


Comments

    Sounds like he was cybersquatting but tried to cover himself by claiming it was a developer forum. The fact he used titles that are synonymous with official accounts with no mention of a developer forum or community status makes his story hard to believe.

    It might have been a convincing sob story if it was just the domain name, but calling the G+ group "OculusRiftOfficial" tells me he intended to mislead from the start, probably hoping to increase the value of them both so he could make a tidy profit selling them back to Oculus. It's 2015, the internet is mature enough for people to know at this point that you can't register domains like that and hope to keep them. They're usually registered in the hopes the company will negotiate for them rather than take legal action.

    "People should know how ruthless and greedy the company has become" might as well read "They didn't give me the money I wanted so I'm going to try to damage their reputation in response". I'm very distrustful of Oculus' affiliation with Facebook, but they're well within their rights here and I'd do the same thing if I were them.

      Yeah, he called them greedy after they knocked back his 58k sales pitch. Hmmmm.....

      If he was actually out for the devs all he had to do was have them keep the forums as a part of the site. Do you think oculus wants to harm development for their platform? C'mon!

      Last edited 01/07/15 8:16 am

    Funny stuff, his cries of innocence and that the company are being ruthless and greedy kind of fall apart when he is the one asking for $58,000 in exchange for the domain.... No doubt he's been waiting 3 years for the payoff.

    Really? He's upset he didn't get his $58k for locking away the domain when the project hadn't even gone to kickstarter yet? I was on his side right up until he mentioned how much he was willing to sell out the domain for. You're just playing the same game as the "ruthless and greedy company" and upset they're bigger and better than you at it.

    How did it even get to this point? You'd think they would have registered the domain before they publicly announced the name?

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