'belgianbeer.be' decision tastes bitter to Belgian Brewers Union


In Confederatie Brouwerijen Belgie v Meuleman, Belgian Centre for Arbitration and Mediation (CEPINA) panellist Karine Ottelohe has refused to order the transfer of the domain name 'belgianbeer.be' to the Union of Belgian Brewers (UBB). Ottelohe held that the domain name had not been registered in bad faith.

The UBB, a professional union defending the interests of Belgian brewers and Belgian beer worldwide, filed a complaint with CEPINA arguing that Pedro Meuleman's registration of 'belgianbeer.be' infringed its trademark rights. Meuleman did not file a response.

Similarly to the provisions of the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy, Article 10(b) of the terms and conditions for transfer under the DNS Belgium dispute resolution policy provides that the complainant has to demonstrate that:

  • the domain name is identical or confusingly similar to any of the following, in which it has rights:

    o a trademark;

    o a trade name, social name or corporation name;

    o a geographical designation or name of a geographical entity;

    o a name of origin;

    o a designation of source; or

  • o a personal name;

  • the registrant has no rights or legitimate interests in the domain name; and

  • the domain name has been registered or is being used in bad faith.

Ottelohe dismissed the UBB's complaint. She disregarded the fact that the UBB owns a valid Benelux registration for the figurative collective trademark BELGIAN BEER. She doubted whether the words 'Belgian' and 'beer', considered separately, would possess sufficient distinctive character to warrant protection. Instead, Ottelohe accepted that the UBB could claim rights in BELGIAN BEER "as a designation of source or a geographical designation", despite the fact that geographical designations are subject to registration and the UBB does not own such a registration.

With regard to the second condition for transfer, Meuleman's failure to file any response led Ottelohe to conclude that he did not have a legitimate interest in 'belgianbeer.be'.

Lastly, Ottelohe ruled that since the term 'Belgian beer' is neither well known in Belgium as a geographical designation/designation of source nor a fanciful name, it was very unlikely that Meuleman registered the disputed domain name in bad faith. The fact that it was not being used did not alter this view.

Accordingly, Ottelohe refused to transfer the domain name.

The UBB may still choose to file a complaint before a court.

Michel Draps, Altius, Brussels

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