Absolut vodka has won the rights to a domain name belonging to an escort agency. The World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) has transferred the rights to absolut-escort.com to Absolut's owner, V&S Vin&Spirit AB of Sweden.
Coreswood Limited had registered the address and used it to direct website users to an explicit site that offered services from "exclusive" women, according to the WIPO judgment.
V&S had taken a case to WIPO to have ownership of the domain transferred to it. WIPO operates an arbitration centre for domain dispute resolution, which has just published its ruling agreeing with V&S's demand.
"By registering and using a domain name which is confusingly similar to the Complainant’s famous trademark, the Respondent is using this similarity to attract users to his own website," said the ruling. "This website has content of a sexual nature. The Panel does not doubt that the Respondent is using the considerable goodwill of the Complainant’s mark to attract Internet users to his own site. This is done by registering and using a domain name confusingly similar to the Complainant’s mark."
"The use of the mark in the domain name is not done for any other apparent reason than creating a likelihood of confusion with the Complainant’s well-known mark, and hence to misleadingly divert consumers," it said. "The Respondent’s use of the well-known mark along with a word with a sexual connotation in a domain name leading to a website of a sexual nature may also lead to tarnishing the mark."
V&S has been marketing vodka under the Absolut brand since 1979, and since the early 1980s in Europe. It has a trade mark on the term in various countries and its brand was ranked 93rd most valuable in the world in 2001 by Interbrand.
The company behind academy-girls.com, Cyprus-based Coreswood, did not file an argument with WIPO.
The WIPO arbitration panel found that despite the addition of a hyphen and another word, the domain was 'confusingly similar' to the Absolut mark. "The Panel finds that the addition of a generic word to the well-known mark does not alter the fact that the domain name is confusingly similar to the mark. Previous cases have shown that simply adding a common or generic term, such the word “escort”, to a famous mark is not sufficient to give the domain name an individual meaning and prevent the overall impression that the domain name has some sort of connection with the Complainant," it said.
In order to take the domain from Coreswood the panel had to find that it was registered in bad faith. It found that Coreswood's actions were "intentionally confusing the users as to the source, sponsorship, affiliation or endorsement of the website, as most users will be familiar with the Absolut mark and the goods sold under this mark. The Respondent is generating hits on his website by exploiting the Complainant’s goodwill as a widely known provider of goods."
Absolut has previously fought and won cases to have the ownership of domains absolut-porno-star.com; absolut-video-hard.com; absolutsexo.com; absolut-sexe.com, and absolute-x.com transferred to it from various other companies.