If you haven’t heard about Ashley Madison, then you are likely in a committed relationship and would never even consider cheating or you don’t pay much attention to commercials. In the recent cybersquatting case of Avid Dating Life, Inc. v. Private Whois Service FA1318204 (Nat. Arb. Forum May 13, 2010) a single member Panel was faced with a dispute over 101 domains. A full list of the domains is provided in the decision. Complainant is the owner of the well known website www.AshleyMadison.com where people can seek out others who are in committed relationships seeking to have an affair. As their own tag line states “Life is Short. Have an Affair.” No matter what you may think about such a service, it has become wildly popular and boasts nearly 6 million anonymous members. One of the disputed domains was registered in 2005, while all the others were registered in 2008 and 2009. Complainant has federal trademark rights dating back to at least 2004.
Paragraph 4(a) of the ICANN UDRP Policy requires that Complainant must prove each of the following three elements to obtain an order that a domain name should be cancelled or transferred: (1) the domain name registered by Respondent is identical or confusingly similar to a trademark or service mark in which Complainant has rights; and (2) Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the domain name; and (3) the domain name has been registered and is being used in bad faith.
The Panel began its analysis noting that Complainant established rights in its ASHLEY MADISON mark under Policy ¶ 4(a)(i) through its trademark registrations with the USPTO. All of the disputed domain names contained some typographical modification to the registered mark. The Panel found these domains were confusingly similar to the registered mark since they were common misspellings. For this reason, the Panel found that Policy ¶ 4(a)(i) had been satisfied.
The second part of the analysis the Panel noted that Complainant presented a prima facie case, and although Respondent failed to respond, it still chose to review the facts. The Panel found that Respondent was not commonly known by the disputed domains. Evidence presented to the Panel included proof that two of the disputed domains contained links to competing adult dating websites.
The Panel finds that Respondent’s use of the <ashleymadis0on.com> and <ashleymadision.com> domain names to display third-party links to competitors of Complainant is not a use in connection with a bona fide offering of goods or services pursuant to Policy ¶ 4(c)(i) or a legitimate noncommercial or fair use pursuant to Policy ¶ 4(c)(iii).
The Complainant noted that the other 99 domains did not resolve to active websites. The Panl found that failure to make active use of the domains meant they were “not connected with a bona fide offering or goods or services pursuant to Policy ¶ 4(c)(i) or a legitimate noncommercial or fair use pursuant to Policy ¶ 4(c)(iii).” And lastly under this section, the Panel found “registration of the disputed domain names containing misspelled versions of Complainant’s mark is further evidence of Respondent’s lack of rights and legitimate interests in the names under Policy ¶ 4(a)(ii).” For all these reasons, Policy ¶ 4(a)(ii) had been satisfied.
Moving to the final element, bad faith, the Panel repeated many of the same facts and applied them in this section as stated earlier. This includes, the third party links, the inactive websites, the typographical variations on the domain names. The Panel also found that “Respondent’s registration of many trademark infringing domain names within a short period of time is evidence of bad faith registration and use under Policy ¶ 4(b)(ii).” For all these reasons, Policy ¶ 4(a)(iii) had been satisfied.
Ultimately, the Panel found that Complainant presented and proved all three elements, and ordered the domains be TRANSFERRED.