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Now Serving: Hot feud over food delivery domain

Competing local food-delivery services Quikdine.Com Inc. and Lightning Delivery have been feuding for years. Although a settlement out of court has finally been reached, the parties say the fight may not be over.

Randy Ruggeri launched QuikDine 18 years ago, offering customers the opportunity to order meals from restaurants over the internet and have them delivered to their homes or offices. In 2010, Jason Green founded Lightning Delivery with a very similar model.

This would be just another story of two businesses jockeying for market share – a tale as old as commerce. But the topic of website domain name ownership has given the situation a very modern twist.

Initially, Green’s Flash Delivery LLC purchased and set up shop with Lightning-Delivery.com – including the dash in the middle of the name. It’s unclear why he didn’t buy the domain name without the dash. He said it wasn’t for sale at the time, while Ruggeri claims it was.

In 2012, GoDaddy Inc. gained control of LightningDelivery.com – without the dash – and offered it for sale. Ruggeri bought it for $900.

“Out of all the people in the world bidding against me,” Green said, “it turns out it was the same guy, in the same town, in the same industry, trying to buy our website.”

Green claims he was outbid, and Ruggeri said Green never attempted to buy it. Both parties declined to provide bidding records to Springfield Business Journal.

After the purchase, Ruggeri set up a basic site advertising a “Lightning fast restaurant delivery service” and redirecting visitors to QuikDine.com. SBJ found the LightningDelivery.com homepage with that messaging between 2012 and 2015 through The Wayback Machine internet-archive service.

Believing the action was an example of cybersquatting and a trademark violation that confused customers about the ownership of Lightning Delivery, Green sent a cease-and-desist letter asking QuikDine to stop using the domain name.

In a letter to Green furnished to SBJ, Ruggeri responded that he had placed the domain for sale to any interested buyer for $25,000 through a service on GoDaddy.com. The letter also offered to sell the site to Green for a lesser price. Green declined the offer, calling it extortion.

Ruggeri said his decision to purchase and resell the domain fits into the QuikDine business model, in which the web technologies used to run the business are for sale and marketed as a turnkey operation for other restaurant delivery operations.

“If someone wanted to mirror our business in another market,” he said, “we would provide them with the software to run their business.”

Around 2012, Ruggeri said he bought 25 domain names – most including words and phrases related to restaurants and food delivery – with the intent of selling them to customers of his technology service. But of the more than 10 businesses that purchased his web-based software, none has opted to buy one of his domains. Ruggeri said that’s why he listed them all for sale – including LightningDelivery.com.

Green turned to National Arbitration Forum Inc., a mediation service that specializes in domain disputes. The service’s website cites successful mediation for such organizations as State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co. and Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

National Arbitration Forum uses three criteria to determine if ownership and utilization of a domain name is appropriate: how similar or confusing the domain name is to the trademark of the complaining company; whether the domain name owner has a legitimate interest in the domain; and whether the domain name is being used in bad faith.

The arbitrator concluded in February 2015 that answers for all three criteria favored Green and instructed GoDaddy to transfer the domain to him. GoDaddy complied.

Ruggeri claimed National Arbitration Forum’s service is a pay-to-play scam that favors the parties filing complaints and paying arbitration fees and that his web property was improperly taken.

“My constitutional rights were violated,” he said.

On the heels of the domain dispute win, Green filed a federal lawsuit against QuikDine in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri, for trademark infringement and lost profits during the three years customers may have been confused about the competing services. Green said he expected to receive between $300,000 and $1 million, but negotiated an $80,000 settlement July 5, one week before the court date.

“The following week we were going to have a judge make a judgment,” he said. “However, that would have been really bad, because we would have never seen a penny of any of that.”

Ruggeri said he would have preferred to see the case to its end in order to clear his name but agreed to the settlement, since his insurance policy would cover the costs.

Green said he had to pay about $30,000 in legal costs at the conclusion of the case. He hired attorney Todd Lubben of Brown & James PC’s St. Louis office, who declined to comment on the case.

Ruggeri hinted this might not be his last legal battle with Green. He declined to elaborate.

“Unfortunately,” he said, “there are those businesses that don’t fly straight and look to gain from whatever means possible.”

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