The Tallinn Circuit Court has dismissed Goverlink OÜ’s appeal against a decision of the Harju County Court in which the latter had refused to order the transfer of the domain name ‘rate24.eu’ to Goverlink (Case 2-06-15440, September 19 2008).
Goverlink is the owner of the domain names ‘rate24.com’ and ‘rate24.ee’. On April 7 2006 Toomas Allikas registered the domain name ‘rate24.eu’. Allikas had been a member of Goverlink’s board of directors until April 6 2006.
On June 16 2006 Goverlink filed a written complaint demanding that Allikas stop using the domain name ‘rate24.eu’ immediately and give up his rights to the domain name. Allikas refused to comply.
Goverlink subsequently filed suit before the Harju County Court, seeking the transfer of the domain name. Goverlink argued that the domain name ‘rate24.eu’:
- was confusingly similar to its domain names ‘rate24.ee’ and ‘rate24.com’; and
- had been registered in bad faith and for speculative purposes.
Goverlink also argued that RATE24 should be considered as a registered trademark on the grounds that it was well known in Estonia. According to Goverlink, use of the domain name ‘rate24.eu’ by Allikas was detrimental to its business.
In his defence, Allikas stated that he used the domain name for non-commercial purposes only and that RATE24 was not a well-known trademark in Estonia. Allikas also pointed out that if Goverlink wished to acquire the rights to the domain name ‘rate24.eu’, it should make an offer to this effect to Allikas. Allikas claimed that there were no reasons why he should transfer the domain name without compensation.
On March 11 2008 the Harju County Court dismissed Goverlink’s claim, holding that the latter had failed to demonstrate that RATE24 was a well-known trademark in Estonia. Consequently, Estonian trademark law and Articles 10 and 21 of Commission Regulation 874/2004
(laying down public policy rules concerning the implementation and functions of the ‘.eu’ top-level domain and the principles governing registration) did not apply in this case. In addition, as the domain name ‘rate24.eu’ had been used only for non-commercial purposes, there was no infringement of the Competition Act.
Goverlink appealed to the Tallinn Circuit Court. Among other things, it claimed that the county court had not taken into account the fact that the domain name ‘rate24.eu’ had been registered and was being used in bad faith.
On September 19 2008 the circuit court dismissed the appeal and affirmed the decision of the county court.
Kärt Laigu, Käosaar & Co, Tallinn