Tiger Woods Can’t Win…His Son’s Domain Name

In the recent domain dispute of ETW Corp. and Eldrick ‘Tiger’ Woods, for itself, Tiger Woods and his minor child, Charlie Axel Woods v. Josh Whitford (Nat. Arb. Forum 1263352, June 24, 2009) a single member Panel was faced with a dispute over the domain www.charlieaxelwoods.com. Essentially, this case was brought by Tiger Woods on behalf of his second son Charlie Axel Woods. Tiger Woods remains one of the most famous people in the world, let alone the greatest golfer. He maintains a web site at www.tigerwoods.com.

In all ICANN UDRP cases Panels review, and Complainants must prove three elements: (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 this case the Panel reviewed arguments submitted by both parties. Woods relied upon a federal trademark registration for his own name as well as common law rights in his son’s name. Tiger Woods’ son was born on February 8, 2009 and the disputed domain was registered on February 9, 2009. Tiger argued that the domain was being held primarily for the purpose of selling it. Tiger argued that Respondent listed the domain for sale on eBay nine days after its acquisition stating:

“This is your chance to own the domain to a future golf legend or use it in some way to extord (sic) the current golf legend for some extra cash (not highly recomended (sic) seeing he has lots of money and lawyers.)  I personally feel someone much more into golf would appreciate the address much more than myself.  I am not really sure why I bought the domain, but since I am loosing (sic) my job on the 1st of April anything sounded like a good idea.” 

Tiger further argued that the Whois information for the domain directed viewers to the eBay listing as well. (The current Whois information has been changed and is now hidden through a privacy service).

The Respondent made several counter arguments. Respondent argued that Tiger Woods had no rights under the Policy to the domain since there was no common law protection for Charlie Axel Woods. Respondent claimed that a birth certificate did not create rights. In addressing the bona fide legitimate noncommercial use of the domain, Respondent stated he was using the domain as a fan page. Respondent claimed his eBay listing was satire.

In light of the arguments presented, the Panel addressed the first element, wether the domain was identical or confusingly similar to a protectable mark. First the Panel found that the domain was not sufficiently similar to the TIGER WOODS mark. The Panel agreed it was identical to the name Charlie Axel Woods, but proceeded through an analysis of whether such name was a protectable common law mark. The Panel relied upon the Wipo Report of the Second WIPO Internet Domain Name Process, The Recognition of Rights and the Use of Names in the Internet Name System (2001) and upon the case of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Inc. and Gloria Feldt v. Chris Hoffman, D2002-1073 (WIPO March 6, 2003), which explained the current status of most “personal name” disputes. Specifically that case stated as follows:

The Panelist divided the personal name cases into six categories. The category that includes the most cases is that involving persons from the entertainment industry. The second most numerous category was that of professional athletes. The four other categories, with few cases in each (some overlapping) were authors, business people, royalty and politicians. The Panel found that the cases effectively required that for a personal name to be eligible for trademark or service mark status it needed to be used “for the purpose of merchandising or other commercial promotion of goods or services.” …Later cases have held that in order for a personal name to acquire trademark or service mark status in a jurisdiction that recognizes common law marks, the personal name must be used in connection with the commercial offering of goods or services and must have acquired secondary meaning as the source of such goods or services.

In light of the WIPO report and prior case decisions, the Panel found that Woods presented no evidence that Charlie Axel Woods was used in connection with commercial offering of goods and services or that it had acquired secondary meaning. The Panel found Woods failed to satisfy the first element and declined to consider the other elements. The Panel DENIED the request for transfer.

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6 Responses to “Tiger Woods Can’t Win…His Son’s Domain Name”

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