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Station Casinos sues Internet company over Web sites

Palace Station

Justin M. Bowen

The Palace Station resort in Las Vegas.

Updated Tuesday, April 21, 2009 | 11:15 a.m.

Station Casinos Inc. is suing two Internet companies that it says are infringing on trademarks Station owns for four of its Las Vegas hotel-casinos.

Station filed suit Friday in U.S. District Court in Las Vegas against Smart Answer, S.A.; and a woman living in Panama and associated with the company, Susana Gonzales.

The defendants in that case could not be reached for comment.

The same Panama defendants were sued by several MGM Mirage properties in the same court last year. After the defendants failed to respond to the complaint, MGM Mirage obtained an injunction and a $2.2 million judgment against them for infringing on the trademarks covering Bellagio, Circus Circus, Mandalay Bay, New York-New York and Treasure Island.

Jason Firth, an attorney with the intellectual property group at the Las Vegas law firm Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, and other attorneys with that firm filed both lawsuits.

Firth said the MGM Mirage lawsuit succeeded in having the offending domain names shut down or transferred to MGM Mirage. But because of the expense involved and uncertainties about the potential for recovery, the plaintiff is not currently pursuing collection of the judgment, he said.

He said that besides the lawsuits, his firm is pursuing additional cases for Station Casinos and the Tropicana in Las Vegas through an international dispute resolution process.

Station's suit says the defendants are operating sites on the Internet with domain names that include the phrases "boulderstation," "sunsetstation" and "palacestation" -- all allegedly infringing on Station's trademarks for its Boulder, Sunset and Palace Station properties.

These domain names, Station says, have also been linked to Web sites that further link to an online gambling Web site called "Golden Casino."

Firth said the business model of companies that register domain names by the thousands, capitalizing on trademarked names, is to generate revenue by directing Internet traffic to Web sites supported by advertisers.

The defendants in the Station suit, the complaint says, have violated a federal law outlawing cybersquatting by using domain names confusingly similar to Station's trademarks; and have violated a state law outlawing deceptive trade practices.

"Defendants' actions have disrupted or are intended to disrupt plaintiff's business by, among other things, diverting web users away from plaintiffs' Web sites and to the online gambling Web site defendants linked to the infringing domain names," Station alleged.

"Defendants knowingly made false representations as to an affiliation, connection and/or association with plaintiff by using marks identical and/or confusingly similar to plaintiff's marks and otherwise engaged in deceptive trade practices," Station's suit said.

Station's suit seeks an injunction barring the defendants from using its trademarks and unspecified damages.

In a second suit filed Monday, Station sued a company it says is based in Antigua and Barbuda, Universal Spheres Inc., claiming it's infringing on Station's Texas Station trademark for using a domain name that links to a gambling Web site called "Golden Palace."

Universal Spheres also could not be reached for comment.

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