NOTE: The full WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center's Administrative Panel Decision is available here for your review.
Baha'i Organization Bests Speculator In Domain Dispute
The ruling released today by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) will likely wrest the domain from an Internet-address speculator who claims to hail from Russia, and turn it over to the U.S.-based arm of the faith followed by some 5 million people worldwide.
The National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of the United States, headquartered in Evanston, Ill., had turned to WIPO in August with the complaint that someone else's use of BahaiWomen.com trampled on the Baha'i name followers have used for a century and, more specifically, infringed on a "Baha'i" trademark the organization had registered in the U.S. almost 50 years ago and most recently renewed in 1992.
WIPO's Arbitration and Mediation Center is one of three organizations authorized to sort out trademark claims on behalf of the Internet Corporation For Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).
ICANN's Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP), which has been used to resolve more than 4,100 disputes over "generic" top-level domains (such as those ending in .com, .org or .net), is designed to be a faster and lower-cost alternative to a trademark battle in court.
In determining that the domain BahaiWomen.com was "identical or confusingly similar" to the religious organization's trademark, WIPO panelist Andrew Brown, an intellectual property attorney in Auckland, New Zealand, ruled that "the generic term 'women' does not operate as a distinguishing feature" that would make the domain unlike the Baha'i trademark.
Brown compared the situation to successful UDRP cases launched by AOL Time Warner's America Online over the domain AOLGirls.com, and wireless phone company Nokia Corp., over the domain NokiaGirls.com.
In addition to showing that a domain could be confused with their own trademark, those filing UDRP complainants must also show that the current holder of a domain has no legitimate claim of their own to a moniker and that the address is being used in bad faith.
The outfit behind BahaiWomen.com is listed in Internet registry databases as "Buy This Domain" of Obinsk, in the Kaluga Region of Russia, but had U.S.-based hosting links to a Burbank, Calif., operation. The Illinois-based Baha'i group complained that a Web site at BahaiWomen.com once served as a portal to pornographic sites and included a link inviting visitors to make an offer to purchase the address.
The Baha'is said their own request that the domain be transferred to them were met with an e-mail response stating the domain could be purchased for $775. However, the group opted to shell out $1,500 - not counting any lawyers' fees - to file a UDRP complaint instead.
One UDRP definition of "bad faith" is the registration of a domain "primarily for the purpose of selling, renting, or otherwise transferring the domain ... to the (trademark holder) or to a competitor ... for valuable consideration in excess of your documented out-of-pocket costs directly related to the domain name."
Brown said the request for $775 met that definition.
In addition, he ruled, the outfit behind BahaiWomen.com had also transgressed UDRP prohibitions by using the well-known name "to attract for commercial gain users who would click on to a Web site containing the word 'Baha'i' (believing it was) somehow associated with the Bahai Faith - only to encounter a pornographic site unrelated to the Bahai faith.
"Even though most users would immediately know that the Baha'i faith is not connected with pornography, the fact is that the respondent has used the well-known Baha'i trademark as the hook to reel in unwitting visitors in the first place," Brown wrote.
The full text of the decision is at http://arbiter.wipo.int/domains/decisions/html/2001/d2001-1302.html .
The official Web site of the Baha'i in the U.S. is at www.us.bahai.org.
Reported by Newsbytes.com, http://www.newsbytes.com .
©Copyright 2002, Newsbytes