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Act 1: I Register "ShopsAtWillowBend.com"

In early 1999, I was pleased and excited to learn that the Taubman Company was going to build a major new shopping mall, to be called "The Shops at Willow Bend," in Plano, Texas, just a few miles from my home in Dallas. Because very little information about the
"I should point out
that I have been
known to create and
maintain websites
for motivations
other than profit."
proposed mall was available on the Net, I decided to create an unofficial "fan" website with information about it.

I did a little research and discovered that Taubman had registered the domain name "TheShopsAtWillowBend.com," but that they had not registered "ShopsAtWillowBend.com" (without the). So, on May 29, 1999, acting on the assumption that Taubman intended to use "TheShopsAtWillowBend.com" for their "official" mall website (which is what they did, along with "ShopWillowBend.com"), I registered "ShopsAtWillowBend.com" for my fan website.

Shortly after that date (probably in June 1999, although I don't know that for a fact), I created a website at "ShopsAtWillowBend.com." The website contained information about the mall and the stores that it would contain, including links to those stores' own websites. To make sure that nobody could possibly mistake my fan site for an official site, I placed a large disclaimer, prominently featured in large, bold, black letters on a brightly colored background, at the top of my website's home page, accompanied by a link to the official mall website. The disclaimer read, "This is an unofficial site. The official site is located at www.TheShopsAtWillowBend.com." (Note that the disclaimer has since been revised, and now reads, "This is an unofficial site. It is not sponsored by, affiliated with, or related to The Shops at Willow Bend in any way. The official site is located at www.ShopWillowBend.com.")

As I indicated on the new website's home page, I created and maintained the site as a community service. I didn't have any intention of profiting from the website in any way. I've never tried to sell any kind of advertising on the site or anything like that. I've never tried to sell the domain name to Taubman or to anyone else. I put a lot of time and effort into the site, but I've never profited from it in any sense other than the satisfaction that comes from contributing something of value to my community.

I suspect that my claim of being motivated solely by the desire to be of service to the community may be greeted with some skepticism, so I should point out that this is not the first time I've done something like this. For example:

  • AddisonWeb is a comprehensive guide to every restaurant in the nearby town of Addison, Texas. I created AddisonWeb in early 1996 in an unsuccessful attempt to make some money. The business failed a few months later – but I've continued to maintain the site, adding and removing restaurants every month, for more than five years. I've never sold advertising space on the site. I haven't even attempted to generate a penny of income from the site for the last five years. (The link to "ShirtBiz" on the AddisonWeb home page points to a site maintained by my girlfriend. I've given her free links from several of my sites. This makes her happy, which strikes me as a good idea.) The Town of Addison maintains their own website that includes a restaurant listing, but my listing is invariably more current than theirs. I maintain my site with the full cooperation of the Town of Addison, which understands and appreciates the fact that, despite its "unofficial" status, my site helps to send customers to businesses in their town.

  • D/FW ISP's is a listing of Internet Service Providers who offer service in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. I no longer actively maintain the listing, but I did maintain it from June of 1995 until the end of 2000, a period of some five and a half years. The list has been featured in local newspapers and magazines, and has been recognized as the source of information about local ISP's. Like AddisonWeb, I created and maintained this website for no reason other than to provide a service to my community. I have never sought paid advertising for the site. (I did accept one paid ad a few years ago because a local ISP begged me to take his money, but I've turned down all requests for ad placement since then.)

I mention these efforts not to try to portray myself as some kind of great humanitarian. (I am, of course, but that's not why I brought it up...) But in light of Taubman's subsequent claims that I've been somehow attempting to profit from the purported use of their trademark, I thought that I should point out that I have been known to create and maintain websites for motivations other than profit.

Next: Taubman Demands My Domain

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