AA staggered by domain name loss


In a controversial decision, Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) has lost its claim for the domain name 'alcoholicsanonymous.org' against an entity called Friends of Bill W and Jimmy K, which uses the name for a website promoting itself as "the unofficial website for AA related information".

AA brought its claim before a World Intellectual Property Organization panel, stating that the owner of the domain name registered it to confuse "the purchasing public into believing that [AA] maintains, or has approved, endorsed or is the sponsor of, or is otherwise associated with" the unofficial site.

AA also noted that in September 2001 the domain name had been linked by its owner to a gambling site and that the owner had tried to sell the name at www.GreatDomains.com, a popular marketplace for registered domain names.

The panel decided that the owner did have a right to the name as AA had not met its full burden of proof under the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy. It stated that the name's owner had "some legitimate right to use the domain name as well," partly evidenced by its offering AA related information and the fact that the operation was non-commercial. However, the panel also noted that its decision should not be interpreted as a substantive decision on the merits of any trademark infringement claim that AA may choose to bring in court.

Jon Fell, Masons, London

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