UDRP: “Geographic Names Are Not Subject to Trademark Protection”
In the last year, I’ve probably received 5 or 6 emails from people who had concerns that geographic domain names could be risky to own in the event a city or municipal jurisdiction files a complaint or lawsuit, despite a number of cases where the domain owner retained the domain name. Some of these cases include Pocatello.com, MyrtleBeach.com, Barcelona.com, StMoritz.com, and others.
In a UDRP dispute decision that should pacify any concerns about geodomain names, LomaLinda.com was retained by Nat Cohen’s company, StateVentures, LLC , which was represented by Ari Goldberger of ESQwire.com Law Firm. The Complainant was Loma Linda University Medical Center, which claimed to have rights to the Loma Linda mark.
Although there was a dissenting opinion, panelist Richard Page made a statement in his dissent which should be noted by geodomain owners: “the general rule that geographic names are not subject to trademark protection.”
The reason for the dissenting opinion is that Loma Linda was apparently used by the Complainant’s predecessors prior to it being used as a geographic location (city of Loma Linda, California). In the decision though, two of the panelists cited the various uses of Loma Linda by parties other than the Complainant, including the first Loma Linda city directory in 1936, the Loma Linda Food Company in 1937, and the fact that the Justice Court was established in Loma Linda in 1946.
The dissenting panelist disagreed that some of the other usages of “Loma Linda” indicated the University had given up rights to the term, however. In addition, because the domain name is possibly earning PPC revenue from potential competitors of the Complainant, it could be infringing on its rights.
In the end, Nat’s company has retained LomaLinda.com, and it will probably developed when the company has an opportunity to do so. This is a solid win for geodomain owners – and it’s also a very good reason to have a 3-person UDRP panel. Congrats to Ari, who was also responsible for defending other geodomain names in the past like Pocatello.com and StMoritz.com to name just a couple.
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