For almost 30 years now, Nissan.com hasn't been the place to custom order an Altima. Owned by small businessman Uzi Nissan since 1994, the website was set up to represent his various small businesses before the Nissan Motor Corporation took interest. It infamously tried to rip it from him in court, only to lose after prolonged and costly legal battle stretching over a decade. But since Uzi's death in 2020, control of his website has allegedly been stolen by a mysterious thief, forcing the the Nissan family to take the matter to court once again.
This is all coming out in a lawsuit filed by Uzi Nissan's estate in federal court in Virginia this summer against the unidentified thief, with updates and new motions happening as recently as last week. The suit seeks to have Nissan.com and Nissan.net returned to the family and the domains transferred from current registrar GKG.net to GoDaddy.com, plus damages and legal fees.
If you're not familiar with the crazy backstory, Uzi Nissan was a serial entrepreneur, using his name for various ventures dating back to 1980. In 1994, he registered domains Nissan.com and Nissan.net for his businesses, including automotive service, computer, and import-export firms.
Nissan Motor Corporation, which rebranded from Datsun in the U.S. in 1981, didn't take interest in the domain until 1999 during the Dotcom Bubble. At that time, the automaker tried to wrest Uzi's domain names from him, accusing him of domain squatting and trademark dilution. However, after a nearly decade-long court case that Uzi claimed cost him more than $3 million, the case was decided in the small businessman's favor. That's why Nissan Motor's U.S. website is nissanusa.com to this day.
Uzi Nissan continued to operate both domains until his death in 2020. His estate retained ownership and continued to pay for registration upkeep with host and registrar GKG.net. According to Uzi's family in a court filing, that domain registration was neither allowed to expire nor transferred.
However, at an unknown point following Uzi's passing, his family found his GKG.net domain management account no longer controlled Nissan.com or Nissan.net. The Nissan family believes someone accessed Uzi's account and transferred control of the domains, stating it had "been made aware of communications" from someone "who impersonated family members of Mr. Nissan and sought to sell the domain names." The estate said GKG.net "did not deny, dispute, or question" that the domains "were transferred without authorization," but declined to assist in their return or identify the thief.
It's unclear exactly when control of the domains was transferred, with Nissan.com going offline on multiple occasions since 2020 according to Internet Archive snapshots. By June 2023 though, the Nissan.com homepage had been changed to a "contact us" page directing inquiries to an email address. As of a June 26 court filing, the Nissan family said the websites would "direct consumers to an image of the prior NISSAN.COM and NISSAN.NET websites in a possible attempt to avoid the appearance of impropriety."
As of September, Nissan.com displayed an ad for media tech company Auddia promoting an AI-powered internet radio ad service. Auddia's involvement in the domain's hijacking is unclear, and the company did not respond to an email from The Drive seeking information at the time of publication. Since at least October 4, the website has gone back offline.
This is a seriously strange turn in what was already one of the strangest stories from the early days of the internet—and if the lawsuit is any indication, it's certainly not over yet.
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