UDRP Filed Against First Name Domain Meryl.com (Updated)
This morning, I published an article about a working group that ICANN created to potentially reform the UDRP and URS processes. This afternoon, I noticed that a UDRP was filed against the Meryl.com domain name. The UDRP complainant is listed as NYLSTAR S.A., and the UDRP was filed at the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). It is WIPO Case D2016-0561.
Most people would probably associate the name Meryl with popular actress Meryl Streep, winner of three Academy Awards and other accolades. Although the first name “Meryl” has not been in the top 1,000 baby names for the last few decades, the US Social Security Administration shows that Meryl was in the top 1,000 baby names in the 1940s and 1950s. It seems to have reached a peak in 1952, where it was #752 on the list. This means that there are quite a few women named Meryl who are in their 60s today.
I did a Google search for the complainant’s name and “Meryl” and found that it appears to be a fabric brand by that name. On the company page, it says “Meryl® is the family of premium Nylon 6.6 fibers produced by Nylstar. To understand more about Meryl please visit our FAQ.”
Meryl.com has a creation date of September 26, 1997. Interestingly, in April of 2003, the registrant of Meryl.com was listed as Nylstar, Inc., according to DomainTools. The next historical Whois listing in October of 2006 shows the registrant as “Pending Renewal or Deletion.” I would presume the domain name was acquired at an expired domain auction, which is why it has retained its original 1997 creation date. I visited Meryl.com, and it looks like it uses some sort of zero click parking.
First name domain names are quite popular these days. I know of quite a few large sales, and I have been close to buying a few at various times in the last year or two. In fact, at the end of 2014, Fortune published an article entitled The latest trend in startup names? Regular old human names. After reading the article, I wrote an article to share some thoughts about the trend.
This is going to be an interesting UDRP to watch given the history and generic nature of the domain name.
Update: Complaint was denied by three member WIPO panel. Domain owner was represented by ESQwire.com. Here are a few excerpts from the decision that I thought were most interesting, although you should certainly read the full decision to see these excerpts in context (I don’t believe the context changes by pulling the excerpts, but it’s better to read the entire decision):
“The Panel accepts unanimously that pay per click links may be acceptable under certain circumstances. However, the acceptability or otherwise of this practice will depend largely on the manner in which the links are created and used. The Panel considers that Respondent is using the Domain Name in an acceptable manner.”
“The Panel accepts that there may well be a strong argument for treating a domain name as a new registration (notwithstanding any prior registration of the said domain name). The Panel asserts that this is the case particularly if the respondent misuses the domain name, as that could lead to a legitimate inference of sharp practice. However, in this case there is no such evidence, which makes the Majority hesitate to apply that rule too rigidly.”
“Dictionary.com defines Meryl as a female given name, form of Merle. It is also apparent that the well-known American actress Meryl Streep completely dominates the results of a generic Google search for “Meryl”, followed by a number of other women who have made their name in other fields but who all have the same first name. This suggests that the primary meaning of the word Meryl is as a woman’s first name, rather than as a trademark or trade name of any particular commercial entity.
Respondent has not been shown to be using the MERYL Trademark as part of the Domain Name so as to knowingly divert or attract sales of goods or services normally associated with Complainant. Instead, it appears to be simply monetising the word Meryl. The Panel concludes that it is doing so because of the inherent value of the word Meryl, rather than to trade off Complainant’s Trademark or name.
Ultimately, the Panel concludes that Respondent was entitled to register the Domain Name, as it has done and that there is insufficient evidence to make out an allegation of bad faith registration or use”
“In the Panel’s view, Respondent’s reverse domain name hijacking allegations are not made out. Without wishing to suggest that it will always be necessary for a party to respond to letters sent by potential complainant’s, the Panel observes that in this case Respondent did not answer Complainant’s cease and desist letter. Accordingly, it did not confront Complainant’s allegations. Although Complainant has not succeeded in its complaint, there is insufficient on the record to suggest that its conduct amounted to reverse domain name hijacking.”
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