Does your personal name function as a trademark?

Celebrities and well-known people can use the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy to go after cybersquatters who use their names in domain names. But this has limits; the name must function as a common law or unregistered trademark (or be a registered trademark).

This can be difficult to prove, especially if the person filing the dispute is not a major media celebrity.

Consider the case of MaryPfaffko(.)com, in which the Complainant has a long career in wildlife biology and policy. The registrant of the domain name appears to have a personal vendetta against the Complainant.

World Intellectual Property Organization panelist Georges Nahitchevansky found that there wasn’t enough evidence to show that the Complainant has common law trademark rights in the name. He noted that UDRP is limited in scope and that the complaint would be better served in the courts:

The Panel wants to make clear that it takes no pleasure in reaching this decision. Hijacking the name of another for purposes of furthering what appears to be a personal vendetta is likely an abusive practice. However, the scope of the Policy is a narrow one and is meant to provide appropriate relief to a party that has rights in a trademark and not to address matters such as defamation or other torts that are outside the scope of the Policy. Such abusive practices would be better addressed in a court action and not through the UDRP.

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