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Arbitrator Slams Complainant For “Paltry” Record Evidence

In the recent cybersquatting case of Digital Alchemy, LLC v. Digital Alchemy c/o Ramon Felciano FA1295928 (Nat. Arb. Forum, January 12, 2010) a single member Panel was faced with a dispute over the domain www.DigitalAlchemy.com. Complainant operates in the field of electronic CRM for the Hospitality Industry and maintains a web site at www.data2gold.com. Complainant claims no registered trademark but states it has common law rights dating back to 1996.  Respondent is a consulting firm based in San Francisco, California, specializing in business, product, and technology strategy for life sciences, healthcare and technology markets. Respondent claims to have been offering its consulting services since 1993.

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.

In addressing the first element, the Panel noted that the disputed domain is identical to the DIGITAL ALCHEMY mark. But the Panel found that Complainant failed to demonstrate it has rights to the mark. The Panel criticized the Complainant’s contention that it had used the mark in connection with its services since 1996, noting that it was a conclusory statement lacking sufficient evidence. The Panel further finds that Complainant failed to present evidence of secondary meaning. The Panel cited to another prior decision and explained.

 In declining to recognize the complainant’s common law mark in Kip Cashmore the panel stated:  “Here, Complainant has not presented any credible evidence establishing acquired distinctiveness [for the complainant’s goods and services]. The record is devoid of any declarations of unaffiliated parties attesting that the mark of Complainant serves as an identifier of origin or services. Complainant’s record consists of merely a declaration of Complainant with unsupported facts…” Here the record is even more paltry than in Kip Cashmore, as there isn’t even a self-serving declaration by Complainant that its mark serves as an identifier of its goods and services in the public’s mind.

Moving to the second element, the Panel continued its analysis. The Panel found Complainant failed to present a prima facie case. Respondent presented evidence of doing business since 1993 under the Digital Alchemy name, which was prior to Complainant’s use. The Panel dismissed Complainant’s Additional Submission argument that there was no proof of continuos use by Respondent, noting the UDRP had no such requirement. The Panel also dismissed Complainant’s contention that the offer to sell the domain, after being solicited by Complainant did not satisfy this element.

In addressing the final element, bad faith, the Panel explained:

Given Respondent’s use of the Digital Alchemy name in its business since 1993, and the Panel’s finding that Respondent has rights and legitimate interests in the domain name, the Panel concludes that Respondent did not register and is not using the domain in bad faith. Indeed, as prior panels have held, once a panel has determined that a respondent has rights and legitimate interests in a domain name, the question of bad faith is moot.

Ultimately, the Panel found that Complainant failed to prove any of the three elements, and DENIED the request for transfer.

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