- Jump has been trying to purchase Wormhole.com from a 79-year-old sci-fi fan for more than a year.
- The man finally capitulated after the trading giant sued him for breach of contract.
The realm of physics offers the exciting possibility of "wormholes" that could let us collapse space and time. But here on Earth, most of us are subject to more mundane realities—including that the rich and powerful usually get what they want.
Dick Merryman, a 79-year-old computer engineer, got a reminder of that last month when Jump Operations—the holding company for crypto giant Jump Trading—put the legal screws to him to obtain wormhole.com, a domain he has owned for years and that corresponds to an email he created for he and his wife.
For Merryman, the domain reflects his fondness for astrophysicist Carl Sagan, whose 1985 novel "Contact" deployed a "wormhole" to let characters skip across light years. Merryman purchased the wormhole.com domain in 1994, creating a simple placeholder website that displays a cosmic picture.
For Jump, however, "wormhole" has a very different significance. It is the name of a crypto platform that creates "bridges" between popular blockchains such asand , and in which Jump has a very significant investment.
While Jump is currently using the wormholenetwork.com to host Wormhole-related content, it has coveted the shorter name owned by Merryman, and began trying to acquire it last year.
In June of 2021, someone at Jump used a third-party domain broker to approach Merryman and offer $2,500 for the name. The latter rebuffed the request, saying—perhaps in jest—that the price was a "firm US$50000."
To Merryman's surprise, Jump promptly accepted the offer—an acceptance that Merryman proceeded to ignore. After being badgered by the broker, he made his feelings clear a few weeks later.
"Nope, sorry, I changed my mind. This was too easy, I'm either leaving a lot of money on the table or it is a scam. Either way, no sale," Merryman wrote in a message reproduced in court filings. "If you want to make a reasonable offer, then you are encouraged to do so."
Jump then pulled out the big guns. The company's lawyers warned Merryman he was in breach of contract and that he had to honor the message saying he would sell for $50,000. But Merryman wanted no part of it, in part because he didn't want to lose his email address.
"I didn't really want to sell it. I've had the same email address for 28 years—it's like family," he told the website Insider.
Too tired to fight
Merryman blew off Jump's demands for months. But in April, the company decided to up the ante and sue him in federal court with a demand he transfer ownership of the domain name.
On April 8, a judge forbade Merryman from transferring wormhole.com, and instructed the registrar Network Solutions to lock the domain until the litigation was resolved. This came in the form of a so-called ex parte order, which meant Merryman was not even informed of the legal proceedings.
Shortly after, Jump served Merryman with notice of the complaint against him. In an interview with Decrypt, Merryman said he called his lawyer, who t0ld him he was not interested in taking on the case. Soon after, Merryman decided to throw in the towel and accept a settlement that will pay him $50,000.
"I'm tired," he said. "I'm not happy but I'll take it."
A court document filed on Monday shows a settlement in the case is pending. Court records indicate that Merryman still has no legal representation. "That's unfortunate. He needs a good lawyer who can negotiate a settlement," David Michaels, a trademark lawyer and brand consultant, told Decrypt. "Long time domain name owners are being fleeced by sophisticated buyers on a daily basis."
According to Michaels, Merryman could likely have obtained $200,000 to $500,000 in a negotiated settlement.
Jump, which recently poured $350 million into Wormhole following a disastrous hack, declined to comment on the settlement or Merryman's lack of representation.
While the litigation is technically ongoing, it is likely to end in the coming weeks once Jump's lawyers file a formal settlement.