A Complainant who claims an old domain name must demonstrate its use in order to justify prior rights

Source: WIPO, Arbitration and Mediation Center, Jan. 22, 2020, No. D2019-2992, Cyberplay Management Ltd v/ WhoisGuard Protected, WhoisGuard, Inc./DIREX NV and Johann Mayer.

The Maltese company Cyberplay Management holds a gaming license for the purpose of operating an online casino. The latter owns the European trademark “Loki”, deposited on January 10, 2017 and registered on 6 September 2017, as well as the domain name <loki.com>, registered in 1992 and currently operated for online casino services. Said Company filed a UDRP Complaint before the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center against the domain names <lokicasino16.com>, <lokicasino17.com>, <lokicasino18.com>, <lokicasino19.com> and <lokicasino.com>, with the prejudice that they infringe its rights. Indeed, they associate the “Loki” trade mark with the term “casino”, which refers to its activity. The domain name <lokicasino.com> had been registered on May 16, 2016 and the other four domain names on January 11, 2017 (one day after the registration of the Complainant’s trademark,).

At the time the Complaint was filed, the Respondents were using these domain names in connection with an online casino. The Complainant considers that the Respondents registered and used the domain names in bad faith. The Respondents, for their part, claim that they never had knowledge of the applicant and its trademark. In addition, the Respondents have provided several screenshots, taken from the WayBack Machine website databases (archive.org) of the history of the Complinant’s website, showing the latter has never used the domain name <loki.com> for casino activities prior to the current period. For example, in 2006, it referred to a site allowing the user to find all types of events near their location.

The expert ruling on the case concludes that the complaint must be rejected, since the applicant did not provide evidence showing it was the holder of trademark rights for the sign “LOKI” at the time of registration of the disputed domain names. The trademark application was filed after the registration of the domain name <lokicasino.com > owned by the Respondents. Furthermore, in regard to the law on unregistered trademarks (right of use), the Complaint does not submit any evidence of use of the sign “LOKI” in connection with the services of an online casino. Thus, it is important to recall that in order to prosper in a UDRP proceeding, it is imperative for a Complainant to submit evidence establishing, in particular, the registration and use of a domain name in bad faith. In this case, the Complainant failed to provide such evidence. This decision also shows the growing importance of the archives proposed by WayBack Machine, which the judges now tend to accept as evidence (subject to justifying a bailiff’s report).