Musician Frampton secures celebrity domain name

International

A World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) panel has issued a resounding decision in favour of classic rocker Peter Frampton in his Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP) case against the registrant of 'PeterFrampton.com'. The decision is the latest in a line of cases granting priority to celebrities over registrants in situations involving celebrity names.

The website contained links to other sites where recordings and videos of the musician could be purchased, along with text that read "Peter Frampton Music/Videos". The website also encouraged internet users to contact "Mr Frampton" (the president of Frampton Enterprises, not the musician) by telephone or email. Images of a figure playing a guitar also appeared on the site.

Frampton Enterprises argued that its president, Lyle Peter Frampton, had used his full name for his entire life, and that it appears on his legal documents and mail. It also asserted that he is generally known to his friends and associates as 'Mr Frampton', 'Peter Frampton' or 'Peter'. The panel rejected this defence, stating that "while the panel recognizes that any individual has a right to use his/her name in connection with a business, that right is not unfettered; instead, it is circumscribed by the prior trademark rights of others who use that name in connection with specific goods and services."

The panel determined that the registrant, Frampton Enterprises, chose to include the complainant's mark in the domain name to create commercially beneficial business opportunities, "arising out of the inevitable user confusion that would flow from concurrent use by the complainant of its PETER FRAMPTON mark and by the respondent of its contested domain name."

The panel cited previous decisions recognizing that celebrities have common law trademark rights in their names, and strongly criticized the decision in Bruce Springsteen v Jeff Burgar which refused to recognize celebrity rights in a domain name. The panel opined that the test underlying the Springsteen decision lacked merit, as it was Bruce Springsteen's well-known activities and fame over many years in his field that gave rise to his common law trademark rights in the first place, and that no showing in any other field should be necessary.

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

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