This is a good case, one you should probarbly get some kind of legal aid on,.
Since both businesses exsisted at the same, granted one was in an other name, it could become tricky,.
That said, you guys were trading as "smithgitaurs" at that time so that helps you a lot,.
Is there any evidence to support the claim that the other company was called smith and jones at the time you were trading? have you checked web org ?
This could be a simple case of reverse hijacking, it seems that way, but your going to need evidence showing you were trading before them as smithgitars and they changed there name,.
Dont make any offers to sell the domain to them and dont reply to any letters hinting that you might sell it.
I seriously suggest you try the services of a lawyer I understand it's expensive, but it's the best accurate advise your going to get - see Jberryhill here -.
Personally, tell your friend not to speak to them over the phone again, do everything by fax / email - since they agreed over the phone to let him keep the domain, there is no proof this call happened, when it's in black and white, it's hard to dispute.
Good luck and keep us in the loop, let us know how ya get on..
What have any attorneys quoted your friend for a consultation?.
A lot of attorneys have limited time and cannot respond to every inquiry they receive. But I do not know of a single attorney in this business that does not offer free consultations, particularly on interesting sets of facts.
You are doing your friend absolutely no favors by engaging in communications with other people on this subject, btw...
He's asked several local attorneys, none of whom were knowledgeable and/or interested in handling a domain case. He's been fairly unwilling to aggressively pursue it outside the area, because he's unemployed and barely hanging on as it is.
By "engaging in communications with other people on this subject" are you referring to my entering this post in the first place? I thought that was at least in part what this forum was for - am I mistaken?..
Just because we give you some advice here doesnt mean it cant be used against you in future,.
What you need to do is PM Jberry and get some real legal help, thats the best option...
I think YOU should sue him...or at least your friend should. Sounds like he had first use according to your own facts. Don't be bullied. Get a lawyer asap. You may need an IP lawyer more experience than just domains. You have an offline business and the domain imho is secondary to the fact these people have muscled into his business illegally. THEY are the infringers...
Sounds to me like you've had first commercial use, and all that development and backlinks should help your case.
Also, the legal subforum isn't indexed afaik since you have to be logged in to see it. still a good idea to keep this as anonymous as possible though...