Steve Levy ⬥ 2 April
The U.S.-based sports entertainment network ESPN, Inc. recently filed a UDRP Complaint against DisplayPop / Bill Tucker over the domain names ESPNShowcaseFlorida.com, ESPNSportsNetwork.com, and ESPNNetworkSports.com. A Panelist with the National Arbitration Forum (NAF) denied the Complaint. Although ESPN holds trademark rights to the ESPN mark, the Respondent argued that the letters ESPN in the disputed domains stood for “Extreme Sports Professional Network.”
The decision illustrates how, in cases involving multiple domain names, UDRP Panels examine the evidence for each domain individually and may arrive at different conclusions for each domain based on the facts presented. In the case of the ESPNSportsNetwork.com domain, for example, the Panelist found the Complainant did not provide any evidence at all to show that the Respondent lacked rights or legitimate interests in the domain. Therefore, the Panelist’s examination of that domain did not extend to include analysis of registration or use in bad faith.
To satisfy the “registered or used in bad faith” component of the policy for the remaining two domain names, ESPNShowcaseFlorida.com and ESPNNetworkSports.com, ESPN argued only that the Respondent must have had “constructive knowledge” of the ESPN trademark prior to registering the domains. However, no evidence regarding whether the Respondent had used the names in bad faith or for the purpose of reselling the domains to the Complainant was proffered.
This case points out that, under the UDRP, the mere use of a trademark in a domain name is not, in and of itself, sufficient to prove bad faith and lack of legitimate rights and interests. Complainants must thoroughly present their case using the components of the disputed domain, the content of any resulting website, and/or the actions of the Respondent as additional evidence.