Albert Einstein's heir loses domain name dispute


In Hebrew University of Jerusalem v Alberta Hot Rods, a three-member World Intellectual Property Organization panel has denied the heir of Albert Einstein rights to the domain name ''.

In 1982 Albert Einstein's estate transferred to the Hebrew University of Jerusalem all the literary rights to the scientist's writings. The university then licensed a number of companies (eg, Apple Computer Inc and the Pepsi-Cola Company) to use the 'Albert Einstein' name, mark and associated indicia, and registered the mark ALBERT EINSTEIN in France. Alberta Hot Rods registered '' in 1996 to redirect internet users to a portal of websites containing entertainment news.

Applying the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP), the panel found that:

  • the university had failed to establish that Einstein himself had any common law trademark rights in his own name, so the university could not have inherited such rights;

  • the university's inheritance did not encompass trademark rights in any case; and

  • the university had not established independent common law trademark rights in 'Albert Einstein' based on its licensing of Einstein's likeness.

Also, even though the panel found that the domain name is identical to the mark registered in France, it asserted that the university had not shown that the mark is so well known in France (or elsewhere, for that matter) that internet users would be misleadingly diverted to Alberta Hot Rods' site.

Having failed to meet the criteria set out in Article 4 of the UDRP for transfer or cancellation of a domain name, the panel ruled against the university - thus allowing Alberta Hot Rods to retain ownership of ''.

David Gilat, Reinhold Cohn & Partners, Gilat Bareket & Co Attorneys at Law, Tel Aviv

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