IOC wins gold in ‘’ dispute

In Athens 2004 Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games v Molloy, National Arbitration Forum panellist Carolyn Marks Johnson has ordered the transfer of ‘’ to the Athens 2004 Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games (ATHOC) and the International Olympic Committee (IOC). The decision confirms that Olympic committees can file joint Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP) complaints against a single registrant.

The IOC, which owns trademark registrations for the mark ATHENS 2004 worldwide, and ATHOC, which owns Greek trademark registrations for the mark ATHENS 2004, filed a joint UDRP complaint against Australian registrant Melissa Molloy on April 22 2004. Molloy was using the domain name to direct visitors to her search engine and commercial websites.

As a preliminary issue, Johnson was asked to rule on the question of whether the complainants could be considered as one entity for the purposes of the complaint since a fair reading of the language of Rule 3(a) of the UDRP Rules suggests that a complaint can only be brought by a single entity. Johnson noted that two complainants may be permitted to submit a single complaint where they can demonstrate a link between themselves establishing a reason for bringing the complaint as one entity. In the case at hand, Johnson noted that (i) the IOC has recognized ATHOC as the local organizing committee of the Olympic Games in Athens in 2004 under the IOC Charter, and (ii) ATHOC is responsible for protecting the ATHENS 2004 mark in Greece. As a result, Johnson held that the link between the IOC and ATHOC was sufficient for them to be treated as one entity for the purposes of the complaint.

Johnson next determined that:

  • the domain name was confusingly similar to both the IOC’s and ATHOC’s ATHENS 2004 marks;

  • Molloy had no rights or legitimate interests in using the domain name to direct visitors to her commercial websites; and

  • Molloy had registered and used the domain name in bad faith.

In addition, panellist Johnson stated that:

the IOC’s city and year date marks, including ATHENS 2004, are distinctive, famous, of world-renowned recognition and are entitled to broad protection under national laws in more than 200 countries and territories, including respondent’s home country Australia, as well as international law and the UDRP.

Accordingly, Johnson upheld the complaint and ordered the transfer of the domain name.

For discussions of other domain name disputes involving marks owned by the IOC, see OLYMPIC marks protected under UDRP and US law and Olympic bodies win largest-ever anti-cybersquatting award.

James L Bikoff and Patrick L Jones, Silverberg Goldman & Bikoff LLP, Washington DC

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