Football fan site stays with fan

International

In Besiktas Jimnastik Kulubu Dernegi v Avcioglu, World Intellectual Property Organization panellist Nick Gardner has ruled that a fan of a Turkish football (soccer) team may retain a domain name featuring the team's name. Mehmet Tolga Avcioglu registered 'besiktas.com' in 1995 for use as a fan site. Gardner ruled that Avcioglu has a legitimate interest in the domain name and is not guilty of bad-faith registration or use.

The Besiktas football team, based in Istanbul, has played international football since at least the 1950s with considerable success. It brought proceedings under the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP) for the transfer of 'besiktas.com' when it learned that Avcioglu, a resident of Florida in the United States, had registered and was using the domain name to host a website devoted to the activities of the team. It argued that, pursuant to Paragraph 4 of the UDRP, the domain name (i) is identical to the BESIKTAS trademark in which it has rights, and (ii) was registered and is being used in bad faith.

Gardner held that although the football team has rights in the trademark BESIKTAS and the domain name is identical to that mark, Avcioglu has a legitimate interest in the domain name and there was no evidence of bad-faith registration or use. Gardner noted that Avcioglu had provided evidence that he operates a genuine fan site that costs money rather than makes money. Avcioglu also showed that each of his web pages contains a disclaimer for the purpose of avoiding any likelihood of confusion with the official club website. Accordingly, Gardner rejected the team's complaint and refused to order that the domain name be transferred.

For discussion of other UDRP cases involving fan sites, see NBA star scores in celebrity cybersquatting case and Fan club forced to find alternative to 'DaleEarnhardtIncorporated.com'. For a general discussion of the legal issues surrounding fan sites, see The uncertain status of criticism and tribute sites.

Darren Olivier, Field Fisher Waterhouse, London

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