No room for HOLIDAY INN complaint, says panellist

International

In Six Continents Hotels Inc v Goodwyn, World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) panellist James W Dabney has refused to order the transfer of 'cheap-holiday-inn-hotels-accomodation.com', which includes a misspelling of the word 'accommodation', to the complainant - the owner of the HOLIDAY INN mark. He held that the complainant had failed to prove that the descriptive words used in the domain name are confusingly similar to its mark. He also found that the registrant (i) has a legitimate right to use the domain name to offer hotel reservation services for Holiday Inn and third-party hotels, and (ii) had not registered or used it in bad faith.

Six Continents Hotels Inc, now known as InterContinental Hotels Group, is the franchisor of more than 2,900 Holiday Inn hotels located in more than 70 countries throughout the world. It has used the HOLIDAY INN mark in the United States since 1952. It owns numerous registrations comprising the words 'Holiday Inn' in the field of hotel services and also sponsors an online Holiday Inn hotel reservations website.

Larry Goodwyn, an individual based in the United Sates, runs a website under the domain name 'hoteldiscounters.com'. The site offers worldwide hotel reservations services, and visitors can place online reservations with Holiday Inn and other well-known hotel brands. Goodwyn registered 'cheap-holiday-inn-hotels-accomodation.com' in 2002 and was using it as a portal to 'hoteldiscounters.com'.

Six Continents filed a complaint with WIPO arguing that the disputed domain name is confusingly similar to its HOLIDAY INN mark, and had been registered and is being used in bad faith as it is likely to mislead consumers as to, among other things, the source of Goodwyn's website and services.

Dabney dismissed the complaint and refused to order the transfer of the disputed domain name. He held that Six Continents had failed to meet the requirements set out in Paragraph 4 of the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy. In particular, Dabney concluded that Six Continents had failed to prove that:

  • the descriptive phrase making up the disputed domain name is identical or confusingly similar to the HOLIDAY INN mark;

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

  • Goodwyn had registered and is using the domain name in bad faith.

Dabney reasoned that Goodwyn is using the term 'holiday inn' in the disputed domain name to identify the origin of services, particularly reservation services for Holiday Inn hotels, that he legitimately offers for sale in his capacity as an independent broker. The fact that Goodwyn's website also offers discounted rates on third-party hotel rates is not evidence, said Dabney, of bad-faith use. He stated that it simply serves to reinforce the fact that his website is not affiliated with any particular hotel brand. Dabney also dismissed Six Continents' assertion that consumers making Holiday Inn reservations through Goodwyn's site may not receive the same benefits that are available if they make reservations through its own site. He stated that the same situation can occur with any discount vendor of branded goods.

Colleen Donovan, Hammonds, London

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