Meg Whitman filed a UDRP for several domain names, including megwhitmanforgovernor.com, megwhitman2010.com, meg2010.com, whitmanforgovernor.com, and whitman2010.com. The respondent did not file a response in this case, yet the panel ruled in favor of the respondent and denied Whitman’s complaint.
Whitman and her attorneys argued that Whitman has established common law rights to her name due to her many professional activities and success. She built eBay into a huge company, currently sits on its board of directors, and she speaks internationally. They also argued that the domain names were registered right around the time there was speculation about her running for governor.
In denying the complaint, the panelist stated several things that, in my opinion, seem a bit inconsistent with what I perceived as the rule regarding owning names related to a famous/well-known person. Previously I thought that it wasn’t permissible to make money on a domain name that is or contains the name of a famous person, when the revenue being generated is due to that person’s fame or notoriety. IMO, anyone who would navigate to those sites is looking for the Meg Whitman. Anyway, it’s interesting to note.
Some of the interesting notes from the panelist include:
“Merely having a “famous” name is not sufficient to establish common law trademark or service mark rights in the name. “
“fame alone is not sufficient to establish common law trademark or service mark rights in a personal name. Rather, the Complainant’s personal name must be used such that a relevant segment of the public comes to recognize her name as a symbol that distinguishes her services from those of similarly situated service providers. “
“Unlike the complainants in Monty and Pat Roberts, Inc., and Steven Rattner, supra, the Complainant here has presented no evidence of the actual use of her name as a source indicator in connection with the services she is claiming.”
I suppose if they claimed that the PPC links that were on the sites were related to Meg Whitman or eBay, they might have been better off. I guess we won’t know unless she files a federal lawsuit.