June 10, 2009
Intellectual Property, Internet & E-Commerce Alerts

Bill Clinton Loses Domain Name Battles
by Cyrus Wadia

Former President Bill Clinton has lost his attempt to gain control of the domain names <williamclinton.com>, <williamjclinton.com> and presidentbillclinton.com>.  William J. Clinton and The William J. Clinton Presidential Foundation v. Web of Deception, Claim Number FA0904001256123
Domain-name disputes are generally resolved by parties via arbitration pursuant to ICANN's Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP).  To succeed in such UDRP claims and obtain the requested domain names, the complainant must show:
  • the domain name registered by the Respondent is identical or confusingly similar to a trademark or service mark in which the Complainant has rights;
  • the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the domain name; and
  • the domain name has been registered and is being used in bad faith.
Here, Mr. Clinton filed a UDRP complaint against Web of Deception, a company that is alleged to commonly register domain names of politicians.  Mr. Clinton claimed existence of a "common law" trademark in his name based upon his political positions, books, philanthropic foundations and general notoriety.  He argued that Web of Deception had no rights or legitimate interest in the domain names, and that it failed to show any bona fide offering of goods or services through those domain names.  Mr. Clinton's evidence of bad faith was that Web of Deception had a pattern of registering famous politicians' names "to prevent the rightful owners the ability to register their names as domain names," that the domain names were identical to Mr. Clinton's common law trademark, and that the domain names provided direct links to the Republican National Committee website.  Mr. Clinton went as far as to complain that "an Internet user might be confused and think that former President Clinton had become a Republican.  After all, says Complainant, Senator Arlen Spector recently left the Republican Party and became a Democrat."  Web of Deception denied all claims, but specifically focused on denying the claims of bad faith.
The Arbitration Panelist found that Mr. Clinton had established a common law mark in his name, and that Web of Deception had no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the domain names.  But the Panelist found no evidence of bad faith, concluding that Web of Deception's conduct in registering, acquiring and utilizing the domain names simply did not fit within the UDRP definition of bad faith which requires evidence that (i) the names were registered or acquired for the purpose of selling or transferring the name to the mark holder; (ii) in order to prevent the mark holder from registering the domain; (iii) to disrupt a competitor’s business; or (iv) to attract Internet users by confusing them. 
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