According to this article, Tom Cruise has been awared the domain name tomcruise.com by a WIPO UDRP panel. In a three-member WIPO panel, the domain name was taken from notorious domain name registrant Jeff Burgar and “returned” to Cruise.
Jeff Burgar owns and operates the fan website Celebrity1000.com, which in addition to featuring many third party advertisements, also includes information about celebrities, including Cruise. Burgar has also been involved in domain name disputes with the domain names CelineDion.com, MichaelCrichton.com, KevinSpacey.com, JeffreyArcher.com and others.
Cruise’s legal team made the following arguments: 1) the actor has “common law trademark and service mark rights” in the term Tom Cruise, 2) Burgar was making money from the domain through third-party ads on the Celebrity1000 website, and 3) and that internet users were likely to be confused and think that TomCruise.com was affiliated personally with the website.
Burgar, in this case, did not contest the fact that Cruise has trademark rights in his name. Instead, he argued that no likelihood of confusion exists because people who enter tomcruise.com are not expecting to get in touch with the actor or even “purchase” his services, such that they are alleged to be. They are looking for information about the actor. For my part, this is a valid argument.
Moreover, Burgar argued that he has owned the domain name for ten (10) years and, essentially, that laches should prevent Criuse from coming forward now to try to secure the domain name that he has lived without for ten (10) years. I also think this is a valid argument. It would certainly hold a lot of weight in a basic Trademark A vs. Trademark B lawsuit. I therefore do no see how the WIPO panel so quickly dismissed this argument insofar as WIPO arbiters are supposed to consider the relevant law – including laches.
It is cases like these that cause me concern about the future and validity of the UDRP system. All told, it is a weak, relatively ill-reasoned decision.
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