While Calvin Klein owns key domain names associated with its business and brand, apparently it did not bank on anyone thinking outside the box and registering more “vulgar” domain names that could be associated with the brand.
So when Calvin Klein discovered someone had registered the domain name f*ckcalvinklein.com, it filed a legal complaint under the Uniform Domain-Name Dispute-Resolution Policy (UDRP).
This policy has been designed and implemented by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) to protect domain name owners against trademark issues, such as a confusingly similar domain name or one registered in bad faith (ie. cybersquatting).
As US litigation lawyer John C. Greiner explains in an article for Lexology.com, anyone concerned that their legitimate domain names are being used in bad faith by another party can “bring the dispute to an arbitrator and receive a decision that will require the user to transfer the name, or allow its continued use.”
“I’ve represented clients in dozens of these things, and it is really efficient,” he explains on the legal resources website.
But if this is such an effective way of resolving domain name issues, what happened with Calvin Klein’s complaint?
While it is clear from a business perspective that this domain name could be damaging, the arbitrator assessing the complaint concluded that the vulgarity of the domain name f*ckcalvinklein.com “makes it clear that there is no association with [the] complainant.”
The official assessment also outlines similar cases that support this decision, although the case has made headlines because it is the first time a domain owner with a trademark starting with “f*ck” has actually won a UDRP case.
But as the owner of f*ckcalvinklein.com says in response to the complaint, no “consumer could reasonably believe that the best route to finding Complainant’s goods on the Internet is by entering <f*ckcalvinklein.com> into a web browser.”
Unfortunately for Calvin Klein, this argument has been strong enough to quash the URDP filing – even though there are potentially other problems that could arise for the company from this domain.
Although not in use at the moment, the owner of the domain name says he registered it for future use as a protest site and has plans to create a whole network of other domain names that include famous trademarks preceded by the word “f*ck”, effectively creating a network of easily identifiable protest sites.
From the domain name owner’s perspective (and perhaps that of consumers opposed to the brand), it is a clever plan and a huge win to have the UDRP complaint overthrown.
However, from a business perspective, it could be concerning to think someone could register a domain name very similar to the one you use, but add a swear word to differentiate it. Does that mean you should register this kind of domain name yourself in order to avoid complaint sites cropping up?
While the decision lies in the hands of businesses when it comes to grouping domain names and investing in other options, it may also help to remember that other legal avenues – such as defamation – could be pursued if anyone ever registers and uses a f*ck domain name targeting your brand.