Olympic Committee STOPs '.biz' cybersquatter

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has received an unequivocal decision in its favour from a National Arbitration Forum (NAF) panel in a case against the registrant of 'olympic.biz'. The decision is the first victory for the IOC under the Start-up Trademark Opposition Policy (STOP) for '.biz' domain names, and should provide it with formidable precedent in future actions against registrants who use the OLYMPIC mark in domain names without its authorization.

NeuLevel, the '.biz' registrar, created the STOP procedure for trademark owners as a way of preventing the spread of cybersquatting in the new generic top-level domain. Complaints filed under STOP have a lower burden of proof on the issue of bad faith than under the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy as they must only show that the domain name at issue was registered or used in bad faith, rather than registered and used in bad faith.

Since 1896 the IOC has supervised the Olympic Summer and Winter Games. It owns the world-famous trademark OLYMPIC along with numerous international trademark registrations. Earlier this year More Virtual Agency registered 'olympic.biz' along with 225 other '.biz' names. The IOC then filed a complaint against More Virtual Agency, which failed to respond.

The panellist, Judge Charles McCotter, found that "it would be difficult to find a person who could show rights or legitimate interests in an internationally renowned mark that has been in use since 1894." He concluded that:

  • failure of More Virtual Agency to respond to the complaint could be interpreted as an admission of no legitimate interest in the domain name (citing Pavillion Agency v Greenhouse Agency);

  • because of the international fame, recognition and longevity of the OLYMPIC mark, More Virtual Agency could not register or own an identical mark;

  • More Virtual Agency had constructive notice of the OLYMPIC mark because of its international prominence; and

  • the high likelihood of confusion among internet users as to the association of the domain name with the OLYMPIC mark meant that the mere registration of the domain name constituted bad faith.

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

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