New Plymouth District Council v Chris Pulford [2016] NZDNC 1187

[2016] - NZDNC - 1187
Dismissed ; Complainant's Rights ; Unfair Registration - Dismissed - Rights

The complainant is the local body corporate in New Plymouth and the respondent registered the domain name in 2003. The complainant owned a variant of the disputed domain name for at least 13 years. The qrespondent's website contained offensive material and other unauthorised materials about the Council and its employees. Later on, the respondent redirected the website to pornographic material after he was met with a cease and desist letter from the complainant.

The complainant contested that it is an unfair registration and the registration by the respondent was done to disrupt the complainant's business. The complainant was worried that the users might be confused or misled. The respondent argued that he had owned the domain name for 13 years and the respondent had redirected the website to various business interests. He emphasised that the domain name has been used for sites with a 'location' based theme. The respondent argued that the domain name is location-based and not descriptive of the complainant's service. The complainant argued against the claim that the domain name is not descriptive. The offensive material and pornographic material that the domain name links to was contested to be disruptive to the complainant's business.

There is no mark or name associated with the complaint. This is more concerned with the domain name itself, not any mark that is associated with it. In some circumstances, the legal authority of a geographical area might have a trade mark right in the name of that area. However, there is little evidence in this case that the domain name was distinctive of the complainant, nor is there evidence that through extensive use, there is unregistered rights gained in the name.

The expert went on to consider this matter on the side of caution, in case the finding that the complainant had no rights was incorrect. The redirection of the domain name was found to be unfair as it would be detrimental to the complainant's rights.

Link to NZLII Decision

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