Quebec wins transfer of government domain name

International

In Gouvernement du Québec v McCann, World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) panellist Daniel Gervais has ordered the transfer of 'gouvernementduquebec.com' despite the fact that the government's name is not a registered trademark.

The respondent, Peter McCann of Montreal, registered the domain name in 2000 and used it to direct internet users to an anti-abortion website. Although he was notified of the commencement of the WIPO proceeding, McCann failed to file a response.

Gervais held that the government satisfied the three requirements for transfer of the domain name set out in Paragraph 4 of the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy.

First, Gervais confirmed that the disputed domain name is identical to the name in which the provincial government has rights. Although 'gouvernement du Québec' is not a registered trademark, Gervais decided that the government has common law trademark rights in its name. (A similar conclusion was reached in Government of Canada v Bedford.)

Second, Gervais found that McCann had no rights or legitimate interests with respect to the domain name. He considered that McCann's anti-abortion website had no relationship with any governmental products or services.

Finally, Gervais concluded that McCann undoubtedly used the domain name to present his personal position on abortion to an audience which had not sought such information. He confirmed that this was evidence of bad-faith registration and bad-faith use.

For discussion of an opposite ruling in a case involving the New Zealand government, see WIPO decision may deter governments seeking '.com' domains.

Florence Lucas, Gowling Lafleur Henderson LLP, Montreal

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