Louis Vuitton fails to grab LV.com

Louis Vuitton has failed to gain control of lv.com in a domain name dispute. The luxury goods company could not prove that the current owner registered and used the name in bad faith so could not gain control of it.

Louis Vuitton has failed to gain control of lv.com in a domain name dispute. The luxury goods company could not prove that the current owner registered and used the name in bad faith so could not gain control of it.

In a process run by the US National Arbitration Forum, chair of the arbitration panel Calvin Hamilton said that Louis Vuitton Malletier SA had failed to fulfil two of the three criteria needed to wrestle control of the domain name from its owner, Manifest Information Services.

Manifest registered the address in 1995 and has used it in the past as an address advertising businesses in Las Vegas, though there is currently no site at the address.

In order to force the transfer of a domain a company must prove three things: that the domain is confusingly similar to something in which the company has rights, in this case a registered trade mark for LV; that the other party has no legitimate rights to the name; and that the other party registered or uses the name in bad faith.

Manifest did not dispute that Louis Vuitton, a manufacturer of expensive bags that is part of the luxury goods giant Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy, has trade mark rights in LV. In fact, the panel did raise doubts about whether this was the case.

"The panel states for the record that it is not the Complainant but the Louis Vuitton Malletier Corporation France that is the holder or owner of those trademark registrations," wrote the panel. "Complainant has failed to state how if at all Complainant has rights in the LV trademark."

Because Manifest did not object, however, the panel acted for the purposes of the case as if the complainant did have rights that could be asserted over LV in relation to certain goods and services.

Manifest had to prove that it had a legitimate interest in the name, and the panel ruled that its hosting of a web portal for Las Vegas businesses counted as a legitimate business on the domain.

That still held true even though the portal only operated between 1995 and 2001. The panel said that since the domain was made up of two letters it could reasonably be held to stand for many things and not just for Louis Vuitton's products.

Louis Vuitton had to show that Manifest used the name in bad faith, such as using it to trick internet users into visiting there on the assumption that they were visiting Louis Vuitton. The panel said that this was not the case because a legitimate business had been hosted there.

Louis Vuitton also said that the name had been registered so that it could be sold to it, pointing out that the name had previously been for sale. But the panel said that a domain being for sale was in itself no evidence of bad faith use or registration.

The panel ruled in favour of Manifest. "Having failed to establish two of the three elements required under the ICANN Policy, the Panel concludes that relief shall be denied," it said.