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Archive for October, 2010

ENERGYFIX Needs A Fix After Ruling of Reverse Domain Name Hijacking

Monday, October 25th, 2010

In the recent domain name dispute of Suzannah R. Noonan v. Kevin Sneed FA1343308 (Nat. Arb. Forum October 22, 2010) a single member panel was faced with a domain name dispute over the domain www.energyfix.com. Complainant claims ownership to the mark ENEGRYFIX, which was registered on July 24, 2001, filed on April 27, 2000 and bears an alleged first use date of April 1, 2000. The disputed domain was registered by Respondent on August 24, 1999, approximately seven month prior to Complainant’s first use of the mark. Respondent contended and provided supporting evidence that he began selling “superfood” products via the disputed domain name on November 28, 1999.

Paragraph 4(a) of the ICANN UDRP Policy requires that the 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 the Respondent is identical or confusingly similar to a trademark or service mark in which the Complainant has rights; (2) the 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 reviewed the elements and found that the domain was confusingly similar to Complainant’s mark. In addressing the second element the Panel made the following observations:

Under Policy ¶ 4(c)(i), use of a domain name in connection with a bona fide offering of goods is sufficient to establish rights or legitimate interests in the domain name for purposes of ¶ 4(a)(ii).  Respondent operated an online store using the disputed domain name for at least eight and a half years, beginning four months prior to Complainant’s first use of the ENERGYFIX mark and twenty-one months prior to the registration of that mark.  By doing so, Respondent established his rights and legitimate interest in the disputed domain name.

In addressing the third element, bad faith, the Panel continued its observations that no bad faith could have existed in light of the earlier registration of the domain compared with the first use of the mark.

The case became interesting with the Panel’s discussion regarding Reverse Domain Name Hijacking. The Panel noted:

The Panel is troubled by Complainant’s attempt to secure <energyfix.com>, a domain name that was registered and used to sell goods for months before Complainant’s first use of the ENERGYFIX mark.  A simple WHOIS search would have informed Complainant that the disputed domain name had been registered seven months before her first use of the ENERGYFIX mark and therefore could not have been registered in bad faith.  It is also evident from the Complaint that Complainant was aware that Respondent was selling goods using the disputed domain name, one of the activities that gives rise to rights and legitimate interests in a domain name….A long delay in filing a complaint can also give rise to an inference that a complainant with a flawed claim knew that it had a flawed claim, providing further support for a finding of bad faith.

Ultimately, the Panel found that Complainant failed to prove the elements and made a finding that Complainant engaged in Reverse Domain Name Hijacking.

FORD Has A FIESTA With Domain Names

Thursday, October 21st, 2010

  

In the recent cybersquatting case of Ford Motor Company v. Boomerang Enterprises Inc., FA1344311 (Nat. Arb. Forum October 20, 2010) a single member Panel was faced with a dispute over the domains www.fiesta-armrest.com, www.fiesta-armrest.net, www.fiestaarmrest.com, www.fiestaarmrest.net, and www.fordfiestaarmrest.com. Ford is the well known longstanding car company which needs no introduction. Ford maintains a website at www.ford.com. Ford owns numerous trademark registrations for its FIESTA vehicle. Respondent is an official Ford approved vendor. Respondent claims that it registered and developed the domain names with Ford’s approval and encouragement. As a result Respondent sought to have this dispute not handled under the UDRP, noting that it was contractual and fell outside the purview of the UDRP. The Panel reviewed the information and disagreed with Respondent position regarding the coverage of the UDRP on the facts at issue.

Complainant claims that it has established the elements outlined by the UDRP, and that Respondent’s arguments about Complainant and Respondent’s relationship do not provide sufficient reason for the Panel not to decide the case. Complainant and Respondent have provided sufficient evidence for the Panel to properly decide the dispute under the UDRP, the Panel may thus proceed with the case and consider the contentions of Complainant and Respondent.

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 reviewed and applied the elements finding that Complaint satisfied all three. Of interesting note, the Panel reviews the concept of disclaimers in avoiding bad faith.

Complainant argues that a disclaimer posted on a website is too late to avoid confusion among Internet users. Complainant claims that Internet users are misdirected to Respondent’s website before seeing the disclaimer.  Therefore, Complainant contends that Respondent’s disclaimer does not mitigate Respondent’s bad faith registration and use of the disputed domain names. In view of the circumstances of the present case, the Panel finds accordingly that the disclaimer posted on Respondent’s website by Respondent is insufficient to prevent a finding of bad faith under Policy ¶ 4(a)(iii) since it does not prevent initial confusion and may be disregarded by Internet users. See Continental Airlines, Inc. v. Vartanian, FA 1106528 (Nat. Arb. Forum Dec. 26, 2007) (“Respondent’s use of a disclaimer does note mitigate a finding of bad faith under Policy ¶ 4(a)(iii) “); see also Ciccone v. Parisi, D2000-0847 (WIPO Oct. 12, 2000) (“Respondent’s use of a disclaimer on its website is insufficient to avoid a finding of bad faith.  First, the disclaimer may be ignored or misunderstood by Internet users.  Second, a disclaimer does nothing to dispel initial interest confusion that is inevitable from Respondent’s actions.  Such confusion is a basis for finding a violation of Complainant’s rights.”).

Ultimately, the Panel was not swayed by arguments presented by Respondent. Respondent did seek a finding of Reverse Domain Name Hijacking, which the Panel also rejected. The domains were ordered to be TRANSFERRED.

RED BULL’s Wings Failed Them This Time

Friday, October 15th, 2010

 

In the recent domain name dispute of Red Bull GmbH v. Roy Kenneth Nabben (WIPO Case No. D2010-1358, September 30, 2010) a single member Panel was faced with a dispute over the domain www.redbullnorge.com. RED BULL is the well known energy drink which does not need much of in introduction. RED BULL maintains a website at www.redbull.com. Respondent filed a response noting that the domain was registered in order for Respondent to sell Red Bull to residents of Norway. “Norge” means Normway, thus the domain name was aptly chosen in light of the proposed usage. The decision explained that the sale of the drink in Norway was not legal, and the parties would work toward getting the product legalized for sale in Norway. The decision notes that the relationship between the parties was done by agreement, and that RED BULL knew and approved of Respondents registration and use of the domain.

In accordance with paragraph 4(a) of the ICANN UDRP Policy, in order to succeed in this proceeding, the Complainant must prove (i) that the Domain Name is identical or confusingly similar to a mark in which it has rights; (ii) that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the Domain Name; and (iii) that the Domain Name has been registered and is being used in bad faith.

The Panel quickly found that the first prong of confusingly similar was met. Then the Panel also quickly dispensed of the second prong, noting that under 4(a)(ii) of the UDRP the registrant can satisfy this prong by showing that it once had such rights but no longer retains a right to use the disputed domain name.

The crux of the case came down to the third element, bad faith registration and use. The Panel explained:

[T]he Panel considers that, to satisfy the third requirement of the UDRP, a complainant must show that the domain name was both registered in bad faith and is being used in bad faith, and that a registration originally made in good faith cannot turn into a registration in bad faith because the registrant subsequently uses it in bad faith. Bad faith use can be evidence of bad faith registration but cannot convert a registration which was in fact made in good faith into a registration made in bad faith…But where a company consents to the registration by a trading partner of a domain name incorporating its mark, the company can readily protect itself by securing a clear written agreement specifying that it will own the domain name after the trading relationship comes to an end; and the agreement can further specify a cost effective means of dispute resolution. At all events this situation is a long way from the mischief which the UDRP was devised and adopted to address, namely the abusive registration of domain names which are identical or confusingly similar to the marks of other parties without their consent. In any case, the Panel is obliged to apply the UDRP as it is, rather than as it could or should be.

Ultimately the Panel found that RED BULL failed to satisfy all three elements and DENIED the request for transfer.

PAM ANDERSON Gets Her Name

Friday, October 1st, 2010

        

In the recent cybersquatting case of Pamela Anderson v. Alberta Hot Rods Case No. D2010-1144 (WIPO September 8, 2010) a three member panel was faced with a dispute over the domain www.pamanderson.com. Pamela Anderson is well known for her acting and modeling. She has multiple trademark registration for the mark PAMELA ANDERSON. She maintains a website at www.pamelaanderson.com. Respondent registered the disputed domain on March 1, 1997 and filed a Response to the Complaint. The parties have been involved in an earlier UDRP proceeding concerning the domain names <pamelaanderson.com>, <pamelaanderson.net> and <pamelalee.com>, which resulted in the transfer of those domain names (see Pamela Anderson v. Alberta Hot Rods, WIPO Case No. D2002-1104).

Under paragraph 4(a) of the ICANN UDRP Policy, the Complainant must prove that each of the following three elements is present: (i) the disputed domain name is identical or confusingly similar to the Complainant’s trademark; and (ii) the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the disputed domain name; and (iii) the disputed domain name has been registered and is being used in bad faith.

In addressing the first element, the Panel explained that it must view Anderson’s rights in the mark based on common law, since the Federal trademark rights do not predate the registration of the domain. A discussion of common law rights extending to an abbreviation of Anderson’s first name from PAMELA to PAM, concluded in a finding that it could be found to be confusingly similar. The Panel was satisfied that the domain was confusingly similar to the mark.

Moving on to the second element, the Panel noted that Anderson claims the Respondent is not commonly known by the disputed domain and does not have authorization to use the domain or mark. The Panel noted the following arguments presented by Respondent:

The Respondent claims to have, as a respected publisher of a wealth of information, including biographical data, used the disputed domain name in connection with various websites in the past, all featuring biographical information about various famous personalities, dead or alive. However, the Respondent did not provide any evidence of any contemplated good faith use and therefore failed to prove rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name under the Policy.

The Panel found this element also favored Complainant. Moving onto the final element, bad faith registration and use, the Panel made the following observations regarding Respondent knowledge and actions.

Given the Complainant’s broad media coverage and the fact that the Respondent registered the disputed domain name in a chronological sequence with the domain names disputed in Pamela Anderson v. Alberta Hot Rods, supra, (<pamelaanderson.com> registered on November 6, 1996; <pamanderson.com> registered on March 1, 1997; <pamelalee.com> registered on March 27, 1997; <pamelaanderson.net> registered on February 25, 1998), it is inconceivable that the Respondent registered the disputed domain name without knowledge of the Complainant’s rights. This finding is further supported by the fact that the Complainant seems drawn towards registering well-known people’s names as domain names and therefore seems to be familiar with or at least interested in celebrities. The Panel is therefore satisfied that the Respondent registered the disputed domain name in bad faith under paragraph 4(a)(iii) of the Policy.

The Panel also applied the consensus view regarding lack of active use of a domain, and explained “In the view of the Panel, the facts of this case do not allow for any plausible actual or contemplated active use of the disputed domain name by the Respondent in good faith. The Panel is therefore convinced that, even though the disputed domain name has not yet been actively used, the Respondent’s non-use of the disputed domain name amounts to use in bad faith.”

Ultimately, the Panel found that all elements were satisfied and ordered the domain be Transferred. This decision was not unanimous though as one of the Panelists provided a dissenting opinion. Additionally, The Panel dismissed the request for Reverse Domain Name Highjacking presented by Respondent.

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