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Posts Tagged ‘Common Law Trademark’

Respondent Has Interesting Arguments For Registering Microsoft’s BING Domains

Monday, January 4th, 2010

       bing-logo

In the recent domain name dispute decision of Microsoft Corporation v. Doug Goodman FA1294422 (Nat. Arb. Forum, December 31, 2009) a single member Panel was faced with a dispute over 21 separate domains containing the mark BING. Microsoft needs no introduction and maintains many web sites for its business, the most relevant in this case being, www.bing.com. The disputed domains were registered during a three day period of June 24, 2009 through June 26, 2009. Respondent provided a response to the dispute, and gave some colorful defenses, which included:

1.    Respondent “created of formulated” the disputed domain names that had been missed by “Microsoft webmasters” until Respondent offered them to Complainant.
2.      The disputed domain names would bring value to the Complainant and the Complainant should pay for them.
3.      Respondent concedes that each of the names has BING in them and that BING is a pending mark
4.      The domain names were not registered in bad faith because Respondent had no intent to harm BING, Inc.
5.      Respondent does not use the disputed domain names to divert users from BING, Inc.
6.      Because of the value the disputed names will bring to Complainant, the case should be viewed as a case of reverse name highjacking

Paragraph 4(a) of the ICANN UDRP Policy requires Complainant to 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) 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, Microsoft noted that it does not have any registered BING marks yet, but did file for multiple BING related trademarks in March 2009. The Panel noted that Microsoft need not have a trademark registration and can show that it has common law rights to the mark. Microsoft presented evidence that it has continuously used the BING mark since May 28, 2008 and that a previous UDRP Panel found that it had established its rights to the mark. As a result, the Panel reviewed the disputed domains and found that they were confusingly similar to the BING mark. Interestingly, as the Panel explained, Respondent concedes that he intentionally put the BING mark in the domains and was fully aware of Microsoft’s interest in the mark. The Panel found Microsoft satisfied this element.

Moving to the second element, the Panel noted that Microsoft put forth a prima facie case, shifting the burden of argument to Respondent. The Panel noted that Respondent was not commonly known by the disputed domain. Additionally, the Panel found that four (4) of the domains led users to a web site with third party hyperlinks, some of which compete with Microsoft. The Panel found that this was not a bona fide offering of services. Regarding the remaining 17 domains, the Panel noted that they redirected the user to Microsoft’s BING.com web site. The Panel explained that Respondent admitted his primary intention in registering these domains was to sell them to Microsoft. Offering to sell the domains is also not considered a bona fide use. The Panel found that Microsoft satisfied this element.

Moving to the final element, bad faith, the Panel noted that the Respondent attempted to sell the domains for more then his out-of-pocket expenses. This factor is considered bad faith. Additionally, the four domains which landed on parked pages, also were a showing of bad faith, since they likely resulted in click-through fees for Respondent. The Panel found Microsoft satisfied this element as well.

The Panel quickly dispensed with Respondent’s reverse domain name hijacking argument and found that since Microsoft had proved all three elements, it ordered all 21 domains be TRANSFERRED.

NATURE’S CHOICE Bark Smaller Then It’s Bite

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2009

       natures-choice

In the recent domain name dispute decision of Kim Laube & Company Inc. v. RareNames, WebReg FA1291282 (Nat. Arb. Forum December 22, 2009) a three member Panel was faced with a dispute over the domains www.natureschoice.com and www.natures-choice.com. Complainant sells pet grooming products and has a a trademark registration for the mark NATURE’S CHOICE. Respondent provided a response to the complaint and registered the disputed domains in 2002 and 2003.

Policy ¶ 4(a) of the ICANN UDRP rules requires that Complainant must prove each of the following three elements to obtain an order that the domain names should be cancelled or transferred: 1. the domain names registered by Respondent are identical or confusingly similar to a trademark or service mark in which Complainant has rights; 2. Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the domain names; and 3. the domain names have been registered and is being used in bad faith.

The Panel addressed the first element of the analysis and explained that the domains were identical or confusingly similar to Complainant’s mark. Although Respondent argued that Complainant could not hold exclusive rights on the common words, the Panel dismissed this argument under this prong of analysis.

The Panel declined to address the second prong, directing its attention to the third prong. First the Panel noted that there was no evidence presented that Respondent’s registered the domains primarily for the purpose of disrupting Complainant’s business.  The Panel only paid serious attention to Policy ¶4(b)(i) and (iv). Those sections state:

For the purposes of Paragraph 4(a)(iii), the following circumstances, in particular but without limitation, if found by the Panel to be present, shall be evidence of the registration and use of a domain name in bad faith:

(i) circumstances indicating that you have registered or you have acquired the domain name primarily for the purpose of selling, renting, or otherwise transferring the domain name registration to the complainant who is the owner of the trademark or service mark or to a competitor of that complainant, for valuable consideration in excess of your documented out-of-pocket costs directly related to the domain name; or…

(iv) by using the domain name, you have intentionally attempted to attract, for commercial gain, Internet users to your web site or other on-line location, by creating a likelihood of confusion with the complainant’s mark as to the source, sponsorship, affiliation, or endorsement of your web site or location or of a product or service on your web site or location.

The Panel explained as follows:

Turning first to Policy ¶ 4(b)(i), Respondent states that its business is the acquisition then sale of domain names for profit.  The only important issue is whether Complainant can point to circumstances indicating that Respondent registered the names primarily for the purpose of selling, renting, or otherwise transferring the domain name registration to Complainant or to a competitor of Complainant.

Likewise, Policy ¶ 4(b)(iv) requires proof that Respondent for commercial gain; intentionally used the disputed domain name to attract web users; to an on-line location; by creating a likelihood of confusion with Complainant’s trademark as to the source, sponsorship, affiliation, or endorsement of that on-line location, or of a product or service at that location.

Once more, the key issue is whether Respondent can be said to have used the domain names in a way which intentionally created a likelihood of confusion with Complainant’s trademark.

The Panel recognized that there are other contrary decisions on this topic but noted that their view was that “proof of actual knowledge of a Complianant’s trademark rights is necessary.” The Panel explained that in the situations where there is a trademark with descriptive elements, then the onus rises on proof of knowledge. The Panel discounts the arguments put forth by Complainant of its common law rights, based on a lack of evidentiary support. The Panel concluded by noting:

Taking account of the inherently descriptive character of both the trademark and the disputed domain name, the degree to which either very similar domain names or identical domain names with different extensions have been registered/used by others, the lack of evidence that Respondent has habitually abused third party trademark rights, and all of the circumstances, the Panel finds that neither Policy ¶ 4(b) (i) or (iv) is made out.

Ultimately, the Panel found that Complainant had failed to prove up all three elements, and DENIED the request for transfer.

Life Extension Foundation Wins Its Domain

Wednesday, November 25th, 2009

In the recent domain name dispute decision of Life Extension Foundation, Inc. v. PHD Prime Health Direct Limited (FA1289603, Nat. Arb. Forum, November 25, 2009) a three member Panel agreed to transfer the domain www.lifeextensionfoundation.com to Complainant. Life Extension Foundation maintains web sites at www.lef.org and www.lifeextension.com. As their web site states:

The Life Extension Foundation is the world’s largest organization dedicated to finding scientific methods for addressing disease, aging, and death. The Life Extension Foundation is a non-profit group that funds pioneering scientific research aimed at achieving an indefinitely extended healthy human lifespan. The fruits of this research are used to develop novel disease prevention and treatment protocols.

 Our law firm represented Life Extension Foundation in this dispute, so we will refrain from providing our normal commentary. If you would like to know more details please read the decision (here).

Panel Denies Claim For 3 Letter Domain, Finds Reverse Domain Name Hijacking

Monday, November 23rd, 2009

In the recent domain name dispute decision of Bin Shabib & Associates (BSA) LLP v. Hebei IT Shanghai ltd c/o Domain Administrator FA1287164 (Nat. Arb. Forum, November 19, 2009), a three member Panel was faced with a dispute over the domain www.bsa.com. Complainant is a law firm which operates in the United Arab Emirates and maintains a website at www.bsa.ae. Complainant claims rights to the BSA mark since based on two different dates, 2001 and 2007. Complainant filed for a trademark in the UAE, but has not yet received a registration. Respondent provided a Response, including an additional submission. The Panel noted that the Response was deficient for not being timely, but concluded to review the materials regardless.

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 explained:

The Panel finds that Complainant has failed to establish registered trademark rights or common law rights in the BSA mark. Specifically, Complainant’s use of the BSA mark for less than two years has been too short, and Complainant has not shown any evidence of the sort that is usually used to establish that a mark has acquired secondary meaning. In light of Respondent’s arguments, the Panel finds that Complainant has failed to establish common law rights in the BSA mark pursuant to Policy ¶ 4(a)(i)….Having found that Complainant has not satisfied Policy ¶ 4(a)(i) because it has failed to establish rights in the mark, the Panel declines to analyze the other two elements of the Policy.

The Panel was not finished though, since it then addressed the issue of Reverse Domain Name Hijacking.

The panel finds that Complainant has failed to present any evidence to support its claimed rights in the disputed domain name. It only provided an application for trademark registration which does not establish any enforceable rights under the UDRP. It did not offer any evidence to support a finding of common law rights in the disputed mark. Also, the Panel finds that Complainant knew or should have known that it was unable to prove that Respondent lacks rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name or that Respondent registered and is using the disputed domain name in bad faith. Based on the foregoing, the panel finds that reverse domain name hijacking has occurred.

In light of the following, the Panel DENIED Complainant’s request to transfer the domain. and made a finding of reverse domain name hijacking.

Glenn Beck May Have Been Raped And Murdered By WIPO Arbitrator?

Friday, November 6th, 2009

               beck-glenn

For anyone following UDRP cases, this one was highly anticipated. The case of Mercury Radio Arts, Inc. and Glenn Beck v. Isaac Eiland-Hall (WIPO D2009-1182, October 29, 2009) dealt with the domain www.glennbeckrapedandmurderedayounggirlin1990.com. (For all the case filings and opinion please go here.) If you don’t know anything about this case you should read the full decision to get an understanding of the UDRP process. It seems as though Mr. Beck got a taste of his own rhetoric today, but if you want to know more about him visit his web site at www.glennbeck.com. Our friend Marc Randazza has won another case with some very “eloquent” language in his pleadings and has provided many First Amendment proponents with a significant case for later use.

Essentially, the Panel found that the domain was confusingly similar to Mr. Beck’s trademark. The case turned on the issue of whether the domain was being used in a manner consistent with the First Amendment rights to publish satyrical content. The Panel believed that the disputed domain was a parody and should be afforded such protection. The Panel explained:

It can be and has been argued by Complainant that the disputed domain name should be assessed “standing alone” because at least some Internet viewers will only have that first impression (i.e., they will not click through).  However, this case involves a form of speech arguably strongly protected under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.  This Panel is very reluctant to reject Respondent’s claim of legitimate noncommercial and fair use on the distinction between viewing of the disputed domain name itself and clicking through to Respondent’s website.  On the same basis by which the Panel has determined the disputed domain name is confusingly similar to Complainant’s trademark – that is, Internet users viewing the disputed domain name will be curious and motivated to visit the website – the Panel also considers that Respondent’s speech should be assessed as a whole, both by reference to the disputed domain name and the content of Respondent’s website (i.e., on the assumption the preponderance of Internet users will indeed click through).

The Panel did not address any issues of bad faith since they found that there was legitimate rights involved. The Panel stated “The Panel notes, however, that the combination of political speech engaged in by Respondent and the substantial lack of commercial intent makes it unlikely to this Panel that Complainant would have succeeded in demonstrating bad faith registration and use.”
A large tip of the hat goes out to Mr. Randazza for a great win.

Update: The Respondent pulled a fast one on Mr. Beck and relinquished the domain. See his letter to Beck (here)

Ashley Judd Gets Her Name and Domain… Thirteen Years Later.

Thursday, October 8th, 2009

      ashley_judd

In the recent domain name dispute decision of Ashley Judd v. Alberta Hot Rods, Jeff Burgar (WIPO D2009-1099, September 25, 2009), a single member Panel was faced with a dispute over the domain www.ashleyjudd.com. Judd is the well known actress who has appeared in countless film and television roles throughout the 1990’s and 2000’s. Respondent registered the disputed domain in 1996 and failed to reply to the Complaint.

In accordance with paragraph 4(a) of the 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 she has rights; (ii) that the Respondents have 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.

In addressing the first element, the Panel noted that Judd had common law rights in her name.

It is well-established that where an actor has a sufficient reputation for her professional work under her name or stage name, that name is a marke in which she has rights for the purpose of the UDRP: see, for example, Julia Fiona Roberts v. Russell Boyd, WIPO Case No. D2000-0210. The Panel finds on the evidence that the Complainant has amply sufficient reputation to satisfy this requirement. As a result, the Panel found the Judd satisfied the first element.

Moving to the second element, the Panel found that Respondent had failed to use the domain in connection with a bona fide offering of goods or services. Instead the panel found that the disputed domain was used to drive traffic to another web site with the intention of obtaining revenue from sponsored links. The Panel also found that Respondent was not commonly known by the disputed domain.

Moving to the final element, bad faith, the Panel noted that Judd’s reputation as an actress had been well established by 1996. Additionally, the Panel found that Respondent engaged in a pattern of registering domain containing names of famous actors and celebrities. The Panel declined to apply any possible defense of laches. Ultimately, the Panel found that there was no contrary evidence and concluded that Judd satisfied all the elements. The Panel ordered the domain be TRANSFERRED.

U.S. CLUB SOCCER Fails to Score a Win

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009

            us_club_soccer

In the recent domain name decision of National Association of Competitive Soccer Clubs v. Bruce Binler (WIPO, D2009-0957, September 7, 2009), a single member panel was faced with a dispute over the domain www.usclubsoccer.net. Complainant is a non-for profit organization responsible for putting together soccer clubs, leagues and tournaments across the U.S. Complainant maintains a web site at www.usclubsoccer.org and has a servicemark registration for US CLUB SOCCER. Respondent registered the domain in 2007 and failed to provide a response to the Complaint.

Paragraph 4(a) of the Policy sets forth three elements that must be established by a complainant to merit a finding that a respondent has engaged in abusive domain name registration and use, and to obtain relief. These elements are that: (i) respondent’s domain name is identical or confusingly similar to a trademark or service mark in which the complainant has rights; and (ii) respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the domain name; and (iii) respondent’s domain name has been registered and is being used in bad faith.

Some of the facts presented included that Respondent used the domain in connection with promoting soccer events sanctioned by Complainant in 2006 and 2007.These facts may have been relevant in the Panel’s findings, however, the Panel did not make it passed the first element.

The Panel found that Complainant did not establish sufficient rights in the mark US CLUB SOCCER. The Panel noted that Complainant’s citation to a federal registration failed to inform the Panel that it was actually on the Supplemental Register.

Complainant does not enjoy a presumption of service mark rights based on registration of US CLUB SOCCER on the Supplemental Register of the USPTO. Complainant does not enjoy any presumption of rights based on the submission of a recent application for registration of the same term on the Principal Register of the USPTO.

Although Complainant has recently applied again to the USPTO for the same mark seeking registration on the Principal Register. Therefore, the Panel noted that Complainant must show that it had sufficient common law rights. The Panel was concerned that the USPTO rejected the original application for being primarily geographically descriptive with terms that are generic or merely descriptive. The Panel took some liberties in doing some market reserach and made the following observations:

Critically however, Complainant did not address the question whether the terms are commonly descriptive or generic. In the interests of fairness, the Panel performed Google and Bing searches for CLUB SOCCER together. Those searches returned many millions of “hits”. While Complainant’s organization was listed first in non-advertising rank, there was a substantial number of references to organizations, news reports, domain names and other listings that include “club soccer” as a descriptive term. The Panel does not consider this search to be ultimately determinative on the question whether Complainant might establish rights in US CLUB SOCCER as a service mark, but it was sufficient to persuade the Panel that Complainant has not here carried its burden of demonstrating that the terms are more than commonly descriptive or generic, given that the USPTO previously decided to that effect.

In light of these findings the Panel found as follows:

The rejection by the USPTO of Complainant’s application for registration on the Principal Register and Complainant’s conversion of that application to the Supplemental Register implies that its alleged service mark is not distinctive. The grounds of rejection by the USPTO expressly related to characteristics that may be understood to preclude the establishment of secondary meaning (i.e., primarily geographically descriptive term, generic-ness or mere description).

The Panel found that Complainant failed to establish the first element and thus did not address the other two elements. The Panel ordered the request for transfer be DENIED.

TELUS CEO Darren Entwistle Gets His Name

Monday, September 14th, 2009

          telus

In the recent domain name dispute decision of Darren Entwistle, Telus Corporation v. Finian Commission (WIPO D2009-0961, September 1, 2009), a single member Panel was faced with a dispute over the domain www.darrenentwistle.com. Darren Entwistle is the President and CEO of TELUS, a leading national telecommunications company in Canada. TELUS provides a wide range of communications products and services including data, Internet protocol (IP), voice, entertainment and video and maintains a web site at www.telus.com. Respondent provided a response, but it is unclear from the decision how detailed it actually was.

Under 4(a) of the Policy, the Complainants must establish each of the following elements: (i) The disputed domain name is identical or confusingly similar to the trademark or service mark in which the Complainants have rights; (ii) The Respondent has no rights or legitimate interest in respect of the domain name; and (iii) The domain name has been registered and is being used in bad faith.

In addressing the first element, the Panel acknowledged that Mr. Entwistle does not have any federal trademark rights and instead needed to establish sufficient common law rights. The Panel  relied on the prior decision of Chung, Mong Koo and Hyundai Motor Company v. Individual, WIPO Case No. D2005-1068, which sets out six factors needed to establish a nexus between an individual’s name and its use and association in trade and commerce. They include:

1) the extent to which the commercial community identifies the individual with the company;
2) the extent to which the individual is seen by relevant media and sections of the public as the alter ego and driving force behind the company;
3) the extent of the personal ownership of the company by the individual;
4) the degree of personal control that the individual exercises over the enterprise;
5) the extent to which the individual is identified with any major achievements of the enterprise; and
6) whether the individual and/or the company has a demonstrable interest in protecting the individual’s name for commercial use.

The Panel then reviewed the evidence and found that Complainant sufficiently proved all of those six factors to show a nexus between Complainant and his company. AS a result, the Panel found that Complainant had shown sufficient common law rights, and finding that the domain was identical to the mark.

Moving to the second element, the Panel found that respondent was not known by the disputed domain. The Panel then relies on prior domain decisions which stood for the proposition that “it is not appropriate to use the name of the entity whom one wishes to criticize on the basis of ‘fair use’ to divert Internet traffic to the site.” The Panel seems to acknowledge that the disputed domain was used to criticize, but in the same respect it finds that since “the website at the disputed domain name also provides links to goods and services of third party entities for the purpose of monetary gain, the Respondent cannot be said to be making a legitimate noncommercial or fair use of the domain name, without intent for commercial gain, paragraph 4(c)(iii) of the Policy.” Thus the Panel found that Complainant satisfied the second element as well.

Moving to the final element the Panel addresses Respondent contentions that this proceeding is an attempt at stifling free speech through censorship. The Panel, relying on three prior decisions, explains that the one may be entitled to criticism, but not when it is using a domain which is identical to someone’s trademark. Regardless, the Panel notes that use of the domain to denigrate Complainant, while having commercial links on the same web site cannot be found to be pure criticism.

Ultimately, the Panel found that Complainant satisfied all three elements and ordered the domain be TRANSFERRED.

IBOSS Shows Who Is In Charge

Wednesday, August 19th, 2009

In the recent domain name dispute decision of Phantom Technologies LLC v. Seo Jae Woo FA1272159 (August 18, 2009), a single member Panel was faced with a dispute over the domain www.iboss.com. Complainant develops and markets Internet web filtering technologies and equipment. Complainant began using its mark IBOSS in early 2002, but does not have a federal trademark registration. Complainant maintains relevant web sites at www.iphantom.com and www.myiboss.com. Respondent failed to respond to the complaint. The disputed domain was registered in December 2002.

Paragraph 4(a) of the 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.

In addressing the first element, the Panel noted that although Complainant did not have a federal registration, the IBOSS mark was nonetheless used on over one hundred additional domain names and web sites. This coupled with Complainant’s long seven year history of use of the IBOSS mark was sufficient to establish common law rights. The Panel found that the disputed domain was identical to Complainant’s mark.

Moving to the second element, the Panel noted that it would review the evidence presented despite Complainant’s showing of a prima facie case. The Panel found:

Respondent’s <iboss.com> domain name resolves to a website featuring third party links unrelated to Complainant.  The Panel infers Respondent profits through click-through fees from the links to the third parties.  The Panel finds Respondent’s use of the disputed domain name is not a bona fide offering of goods or services under Policy ¶ 4(c)(i) or a legitimate noncommercial or fair use of the disputed domain name under Policy ¶ 4(c)(iii).

The Panel also found that Respondent was not commonly known by the disputed domain as shown through the Whois information.

Moving to the last element, bad faith, the Panel explained that the disputed domain resolved to a web with unrelated third party links. These links were presumed to result in profits from click through fees. The Panel found this use to be bad faith.

Ultimately, the Panel found that Complainant satisfied all the elements and ordered the domain be TRANSFERRED.

Yale Professor Joseph Schlessinger Stops The Criticism

Wednesday, July 29th, 2009

In the recent domain name dispute decision of Joseph Schlessinger, Ph.D. v. PrivacyProtect.org / Harold O Connor, JS Players Association (WIPO D2009-0695, July 21, 2009), a single member Panel was faced with a dispute over the domain www.josephschlessinger.com. The Respondent failed to provide a response. Complainant is Dr. Joseph Schlessinger is the Chairman of the Department of Pharmacology, at Yale University School of Medicine. He has hundreds of academic publications and often serves as a lecturer, consultant, book author, and has served on the editorial boards of a number of scientific journals. His biography can be viewed here.

Paragraph 4(a) of the ICANN UDRP Policy states that Complainant must prove (i) the domain name is identical or confusingly similar to a trademark or service mark in which the complainant has rights; and (ii) respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the domain name; and (iii) the domain name has been registered and is being used in bad faith.

The Panel addressed the first element, noting that Complainant does not have any registered trademark in his name, but that he makes claim for common law rights based upon being famous in the scientific community. The Panel found he established common law rights noting, “Complainant is a person of considerable academic stature who has acquired ample secondary rights in his personal name, particularly in the fields of scientific discovery, development and authorship.” The Panel found the domain was identical to Complainant’s mark.

Moving to the second element, the Panel notes that Respondent is not commonly known by the domain. Interestingly though, the Panel explains as follows:

In the terms of paragraph 4(c)(i) of the Policy the Complainant says that the corresponding website conducts no bona fide business but is in fact a criticism site with defamatory content. In the terms of paragraph 4(c)(iii) of the Policy the Complainant says that the use of the website is not fair, as would be required under the Policy, because again, it is a criticism site that in the Complainant’s view exploits the Complainant’s name and is dressed up to appear initially legitimate.

Despite noting that Complainant acknowledges the use of the domain was criticism, the Panel still made the following finding:

The Respondent could perhaps be said to offer a service, whereby he tables his comments about the Complainant. But by the Respondent’s use of the Complainant’s mark in full and in isolation in the domain name without authority, such use is neither bona fide nor fair in the view of the Panel…. In the present case, the Respondent may well be entitled to express its opinion about the Complainant on a website, but in the Panel’s view such entitlement does not extend here to a right or legitimate interest under the Policy in doing so through a domain name that is identical and clearly confusingly similar to the Complainant’s trademark.

The Panel found Respondent lacked any rights or legitimate interest. Moving to the last element, bad faith, the Panel takes us through an interesting factual analysis of the content on Respondent’s site.

[T]he Respondent’s website in the space of only three pages ignores most of the positive dimensions of the Complainant’s stature and concentrates almost exclusively on two uncomplimentary (and contested) allegations distilled out of the Complainant’s life. Likewise these negative aspects predominate in the keywords supplied for the attraction of search engine hits. The Panel recognises the principles of freedom of speech and is not in a position here to assess the veracity or otherwise of the Respondent’s allegations or, on the other hand, whether the purported facts may otherwise be legitimately in the public domain. The key point is that the Respondent’s website posted at a domain name identical to the Complainant’s mark is targeted specifically at the Complainant’s name and mark and uses the domain name to focus on the denigration of the Complainant.

The Panel disclaims any view as to the validity of the content posted on the disputed domain and concludes with the following statement:

Regardless of how benign or otherwise the material, the over-riding consideration in this Panel’s view is that the Respondent’s undoubted freedom of speech within the law, unfettered as it is except by his ability to pay for any possible consequences, does not grant him authority to register a domain name identical and clearly confusingly similar to the Complainant’s mark and use it to point to a website clearly derogatory of the Complainant’s mark.

Ultimately, the Panel found the Complainant satisfied all three elements and ordered the domain be TRANSFERRED.

DefendMyDomain Commentary: We normally do not provide our opinion about whether a domain decision was right or wrong, but this one appears to be wrong. It is clear the web site was used for commentary and criticism without commercial gain. Maybe the only criticism against the web site is that it did not contain a disclaimer on the page (which some panels have previously found helpful in finding for Respondents). This appears to be a classic “sucks” case. However, when the Complainant admits it is a criticism site and when a Panel talks about First Amendment rights, yet still decides to transfer the domain, we begin to question the whole UDRP process.

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