Sport Organizations 2 – Domain Owners 0

Domain disputes for ehf.com and nhl.net

During the last week of March, the European Handball Federation and the National Hockey League won domain disputes respectively for ehf.com and nhl.net.

The European Handball Federation is the umbrella organization for over 50 member federations that promote the development of the handball sport at all levels in Europe. The organization holds various international trademarks for EHF in many different classes, including advertising, entertainment, sporting and cultural activities.

The super premium domain ehf.com was owned by Luxembourg domain investment company Xedoc Holding SA, which considered to have a legitimate interest in the disputed domain name
as “EHF” is a generic abbreviation.

A 3 members WIPO panel ruled that the domain investment company must have had knowledge of the European Handball Federation’s rights in the EHF trademark as at the time the domain was registered, the handball organization had a valid trademark in the Benelux, where Xedoc Holding is located.

The WIPO panelists also found that ehf.com was used to refer traffic to pay-per-click links, partly related to handball and the European Handball Federation, and that while earning revenues through PPC is not in itself illegitimate, the use of a domain name that is deceptively similar to a trademark to obtain click-through-revenue has to be considered bad faith use.

The domain owner’s argument that the periodic appearances on ehf.com of references to the European Handball Federation were related to the organization’s advertising activities and were not related to any actions undertaken by Xedoc Holding was not accepted by the WIPO panelists, who ultimately ordered the transfer of the disputed domain name to the handball organization.

A week later, in a separate case, the world’s premier professional hockey league had an easier win when the Canadian domain investor that owned nhl.net since 1999 didn’t even try to defend himself.

The National Hockey League operates the NHL.com website and has owned a trademark for NHL in the US since the late 60s, with rights in at least 160 NHL trademarks in 29 other countries.

The owner of nhl.net was instead found to own hundreds of domain names that are identical to, or incorporate, the trademarks of other well-known companies and that there have been at least 10 decision against him in as many UDRP domain disputes in recent years.

Since the domain owner didn’t challenge the NHL’s claims that he lacked any legitimate interest in nhl.net and considering his pattern of conduct of registering multiple domain names which are similar to other companies trademarks, the WIPO panel ruled that nhl.net has to be transferred to the National Hockey League while also announcing the possibility of future UDRP complaints for several other domain names registered by the domain investor.

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