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Research on Statute of Limitations of a Claim for Conversion Of A Domain Name

Author: LegalEase Solutions

RESEARCH FINDINGS

  1. Is CRS Recovery case, 600 F.3d 1138 (9th Cir. 2010) is still good law?

This case is still good law. Moreover, it has received no negative treatment from any case citing to it since it was decided. 

  1. What’s the applicable statute of limitations on bringing a claim in California for the conversion of a domain name, and when does the statute start running?  

To establish a tort of conversion, a plaintiff must show “ownership or right to possession of property [and] wrongful disposition of the property right and damages.” G.S. Rasmussen & Assocs., Inc. v. Kalitta Flying Serv., Inc., 958 F.2d 896, 906 (9th Cir.1992).

California Code of Procedure Section 338, subdivision [c] reads as follows: “Within three years: * * * An action for taking, detaining, or injuring any goods, or chattels, including actions for the specific recovery of personal property.”

Generally, Code of Civil Procedure section 338, subdivision (c) provides for a three-year statute of limitations for actions alleging conversion. Strasberg v. Odyssey Group, Inc. (1996) 51 Cal.App.4th 906, 915 (1996). “Ordinarily the statute of limitations applying in conversion actions begins to run from the date of the conversion even though the injured person is ignorant of his rights. Id. 51 Cal.App.4th at 916 (citing First Nat. Bank v. Thompson, 60 Cal.App.2d 79, 83). However, where there has been a fraudulent concealment of the facts the statute of limitations does not commence to run until the aggrieved party discovers or ought to have discovered the existence of the cause of action for conversion. Id.

In Italiani v. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp. (1941) 45 Cal.App.2d 464, 466 (1941), the Court held that C.C.P. § 338(c) did not apply to “intangible or incorporeal rights.” However, the case CRS Recovery relied on in reaffirming that domain names are personal property, Kremen v. Cohen, 337 F.3d 1-24 (9th Cir. 2002), the case that established that domain names are personal property, abrogated Italiani’s holding.

Moreover, “the common law of conversion, which developed initially as a remedy for the dispossession or other loss of chattel may be inappropriate for some modern intangible personal property, the unauthorized use of which can take many forms.” Fremont Indem. Co. v. Fremont General Corp., 148 Cal.App.4th 97, 124 (2007). “In some circumstances, newer economic torts have developed that may better take into account the nature and uses of intangible property, the interests at stake, and the appropriate measure of damages.” Id. On the other hand, if the law of conversion can be adapted to particular types of intangible property and will not displace other, more suitable law, it may be appropriate to do so.” Id.

Although this question has not been directly answered in California, given the foregoing law, the fact C.C.P. § 338(c) does not specifically limit the three-year limitations period to tangible personal property (instead it covers all personal property), and combined with Kremen’s abrogation of Italiani, the applicable statute of limitations period for the conversion of a domain name is likely to be three years.