Judge issues orders in eth .link dispute: ENS can transfer domain

Judge issues orders on many outstanding motions.

The judge overseeing a dispute over eth.link issued a number of orders (pdf) today.

Here’s the back story:

Virgil Griffith registered eth.link for use as a resolving service for .eth domain names. .Eth domains are based on the blockchain, and major web browsers don’t resolve them. Griffith’s solution was to make any third level domain under eth.link forward to the corresponding blockchain website. So if you wanted to visit example.eth, you could type example.eth.link into your browser.

But when Griffith landed in jail for helping North Korea avoid sanctions, the domain expired.

As with most domain registrations, the domain went into an expired domain auction. Due to some of the complexities between GoDaddy and Uni (the registry, not the registrar), the registry that previously controlled .link, GoDaddy didn’t auction the domain on its own service. Instead, the domain was auctioned at Dynadot due to a pre-existing deal with the registrar. It sold at auction for $852,000.

There are five parties to the lawsuit. Ethereum Name Service (legally ENS Labs Ltd) and Virgil Griffith are the plaintiffs. I’ll refer to them merely as ENS. On the other side are GoDaddy, Dynadot, and Manifold Finance, the winning bidder in the auction.

The judge ruled on GoDaddy’s Motion to Dismiss claims. He found in GoDaddy’s favor on:

  • Unfair Competition
  • Conversion

And in the plaintiffs’ favor on:

  • Breach of Contract
  • Covenant of Good Faith and Fair Dealing
  • Intentional Interference with Prospective Economic Advantage

Note that these were motions to dismiss; the judge did not necessarily find that GoDaddy violated the latter three items.

The judge also ruled on a motion allowing the plaintiffs to transfer the domain from Dynadot to another registrar.

Early in the dispute, the judge issued a preliminary injunction in ENS’ favor that ordered the domain to be transferred to the plaintiffs, pending the outcome of the case. Dynadot transferred the domain but put a hold on it, preventing it from being transferred to another registrar.

ENS did not have an issue with this until Dynadot briefly suspended the domain for an alleged policy violation. It asked the court to let it transfer the domain to another registrar. Dynadot argued that this would allow the domain to escape the court’s jurisdiction.

But the judge agreed with ENS, noting that ENS would still be under the court’s jurisdiction and that ENS agreed not to move the domain out of the United States.

In the final order, the judge agreed with Manifold Finance that it did not have personal jurisdiction over the company, thereby dismissing it from the case.

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