Washington state lotto hits jackpot in domain name case

The Washington State Lottery has won its Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP) action against the registrant of 'walottery.com' and 'washingtonlottery.com' in a National Arbitration Forum (NAF) decision.

The lottery holds a registered trademark for WASHINGTON STATE LOTTERY. Although the disputed domain names did not include the word 'state', NAF panellist Charles K McCotter determined that they were confusingly similar to the lottery's mark and that the omission of the word 'state' did not create a new or different term in which the registrant had rights. McCotter also found that the use of an abbreviation for 'Washington' in the domain name 'walottery.com' was likely to make visitors to the site confuse it with the official state lottery.

McCotter also decided that the registrant had no rights or legitimate interest in the domain names. As the registrant failed to respond to the allegations made against it, McCotter accepted all reasonable allegations in the complaint as true. Further, he found that the registrant was not making a bona fide offering of goods or services through the domain names or using them in a legitimate non-commercial manner.

Finally, McCotter found that the domain names had been registered and used in bad faith. He noted that "after [the] respondent has passively held a domain name for two years, a presumption of bad-faith registration and use arises." In addition, the registrant had warehoused other domain names for sale. Based on these findings, he ordered the domain names to be transferred to the lottery.

As state lotteries become more common and their increasingly large jackpots gain more publicity, it is not surprising that they have been targets of cybersquatters. To date, a total of nine domain names that allude to a state's lottery have been transferred to state lottery commissions. In addition to Washington, the lotteries of Florida, Minnesota, Ohio and Texas have successfully brought UDRP claims.

James L Bikoff and Patrick L Jones, Silverberg Goldman & Bikoff LLP and Mary Rhodes, Georgetown University Law Centre, Washington DC

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