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Recent Case Notes & Commentary

Rights or legitimate interests: Do you have rights to your own surname?

WIPO Case No. D2019-2711

January 7, 2020

In order to succeed in any UDRP claim, Respondents must demonstrate that they have a ‘right or legitimate interest’ in the use of the domain name. If a Respondent succeeds in this element, they will succeed overall, regardless of whether or not the domain name is identical to the Complainants trademark or whether it was being used in bad faith. In short, a legitimate interest is a trump card.

What counts as a legitimate interest is often construed quite broadly. Paragraph 2(c) of the Rules provides some examples of what constitutes a right or legitimate interest: offering of goods or services, being commonly known by the name, or non-commercial use of the name without a competitive intent.

It would appear that regardless of the use of the domain, having it identical to your surname gives rise to an automatic RLI.

In the case of Grahacipta Hadiprana v. GlobalPort, the Complainant (Hadiprana) which is a well-known firm of architects, owned the trademark HADIPRANA. GlobalPort is a business owned by Adjie Hadiprana, which offers internet services. Adjie claimed only be using the disputed domain name <> for personal and family email addresses. However, the GlobalPort business also used the domain name ostensibly for business purposes. The panel in this case took for granted that Adjie had a legitimate interest in his own surname and gave little weight to the fact that <> was used to promote GlobalPort – a business of a completely different purpose and name. It seems that the paramount concern is only the domain name itself although the use of the name is highly relevant when panels consider whether there has been bad faith.

Ultimately there was no evidence to suggest that Adjie’s surname was not in fact Hadiprana, or that the complainant was commonly known by the Hadiprana mark before Adjie had registered And so, it looks like you are in the clear if you use your own name as a domain name, especially if the domain is for personal use rather than for business purposes.


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