In what may be the world’s largest domain name dispute to date, a WIPO arbitration panel recently ordered that 1,519 domain names be transferred to Six Continents Hotels, Inc. and Inter-Continental Hotels Corporation.
In Inter-Continental Hotels Corporation, Six Continents Hotels, Inc. v. Daniel Kirchhof (Case No. D2009-1661), the two hotel operators filed a compliant with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center in December 2009. The hotel operators own trademarks and operate hotels under names such as Holiday Inn, InterContinental, Crowne Plaza, Hotel Indigo, Staybridge Suites and Candlewood Suites.
According to WIPO’s ruling, the Respondent was a German citizen who registered over 70,000 domain names. Most of the disputed domain names in this case included the CANDLEWOOD, CROWNE PLAZA, HOLIDAY INN, INTERCONTINENTAL, or STAYBRIDGE marks. In the ruling, the panel found that:
The Respondent has never used or made preparations to use the disputed domain names in connection with a bona fide offering of goods or services. Rather the Respondent uses the disputed domain names in relation to websites which falsely appear to be associated with the Complainant. A typical website displays information about a single hotel and provides links for more information including reservations. The links then display Google advertisements for websites which offer hospitality services in competition with the Complainant’s services (such as Marriott, Travel Lodge, etc).
The panel issued its decision only 49 days after the complaint was filed. However, the speed may be in part because of the lack of a challenge to the complaint. The WIPO decision notes that the Respondent never formally replied to the complaint. In addition, although the panel states that it did not consider this in its ruling, a person claiming to be a representative of the Respondent e-mailed WIPO five days before the WIPO decision issued and stated that the Respondent would consent to transfer of the domain names.