Why Register a Domain Name? Intellectual Property Protection to Start

Attorney Nicholas Kanter

Nicholas Kanter | Shareholder

April 11, 2013

Litigation Attorney
by Nicholas Kanter
818-907-3289

A political organization recently learned the hard way that possession, including possession of intellectual property, is nine-tenths of the law.

In January, after helping President Obama win reelection, Obama for America announced it was switching focus to a grass-roots organization and changing its name to Organizing for Action. The announcement was made before OFA registered the domain, www.organizingforaction.net.

On the day of the announcement, an individual named Derek Bovard registered www.organizingforaction.net.  Initially, Mr. Bovard reportedly set the domain to redirect to the National Rifle Association’s website. Currently, the OFA website redirects to Dr. Benjamin Carson’s speech at the National Prayer Breakfast.

OFA filed a complaint with the National Arbitration Forum [the complaint was filed in accordance with Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers’ (ICANN’s) Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy] seeking an order transferring the domain name from Mr. Bovard to OFA.  In support of its complaint, OFA alleged:

  1. It owned trademark rights in the name Organizing for Action;
  2. Mr. Bovard’s www.organizingforaction.net is confusingly similar to OFA’s trademark;
  3. Mr. Bovard has no legitimate right or interest in the trademark; and
  4. Mr. Bovard registered the domain name in bad faith.

The arbitration panel found in favor of Mr. Bovard, concluding that OFA did not prove that it established trademark rights in its name prior to Mr. Bovard’s registration of the domain.

This makes sense as trademark rights are based on use, and OFA apparently did not use the Organizing for Action name before Mr. Bovard’s domain was registered. In fact, Mr. Bovard argued that he registered the domain at 5:46 a.m. on January 18, 2013, approximately nine hours before OFA legally become a group. Accordingly, the panel denied OFA’s request to transfer the domain name.

What should OFA have done differently? Clearly, before announcing the name change, OFA should have registered the domain. Unfortunately, OFA learned that conceptualizing a name is not the same as securing property rights in the name.

Nicholas Kanter is a Shareholder in our Business Litigation Practice Group. You may reach him via email: nkanter@lewitthackman.com. 

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This Blog/Web Site is made available by the lawyer or law firm publisher for educational purposes only, to provide general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. By using this blog site you understand there is no attorney client relationship between you and the Blog/Web Site publisher. The Blog/Web Site should not be used as a substitute for obtaining legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.

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