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Hard Rock Café Wins An Easy Hand In “Poker” Dispute

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In the recent domain name dispute decision of Hard Rock Cafe International (USA), Inc. v. Ronald Robinson FA1290206 (Nat. Arb. Forum, November 25, 2009), a single member Panel was faced with a dispute over the domain www.hardrockpoker.net. Hard Rock is the well known chain of Hotels, Casinos and Restaurants that are all over the world. They have been in business since 1978 and have trademark rights to the HARD ROCK mark. Hard Rock maintains several website located at www.hardrock.com, www.hardrockhotels.com, and www.hardrockpoker.com. Respondent registered the disputed domain in May 2009 and failed to respond to the disputed domain.

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 addressed the first element, noting that Complainant established rights in the HARD ROCK mark through multiple registrations of the mark. The Panel found that the disputed domain merely added the descriptive word poker, which was not different enough from the mark.

Moving to the second element, the Panel found that Hard Rock presented a prima facie case, shifting the burden to Respondent. Although the Respondent failed to respond to the complaint, the Panel chose to review the record anyway. The Panel found that Respondent was not commonly known by the disputed domain under Policy paragraph 4(c)(ii). Additionally, the Panel noted that the disputed domain resolved top show banner advertisements and links to gaming web sites. For this reasons, the Panel determined this was not a bona fide offering of goods and services under Policy paragraph 4(c)(i).

When discussing the last element, bad faith, the Panel noted that the domain was hosting links to advertisements for gambling web sites. The Panel inferred that Respondent was attempting to disrupt Hard Rock’s business by competing directly. Additionally, it was determined that Respondent was receiving click through fees from the links and profiting from the confusion.

Ultimately, the Panel found that Hard Rock proved all three elements and ordered the domain be TRANSFERRED.

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