Donald Trump’s bid for the Republican nomination continues to throw up unexpected intellectual property issues. We have previously discussed the trade mark implication of his campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again”. The latest episode concerns a domain name.
The domain name in question is jebbush.com. Unsurprisingly, this was registered by Jeb Bush’s campaign team. The registration expired in November and Jeb Bush’s team didn’t notice (or if they did notice, they didn’t care). Trump’s team did (or, at least, someone acting in their interests did) and registered the domain, redirecting traffic to donaldtrump.com. As a result, anyone clicking on jebbush.com would be taken to the heart of the Trump campaign.
It is not clear what, if anything, Jeb Bush intends to do about this. He has registered a new domain name – the rather less catchy jeb2016.com – but, rather more significantly, he has withdrawn from the race for the Republican nomination following his disappointing showing in the South Carolina primary.
The likelihood is that Jeb Bush will not do anything. He has not registered the names “JEB BUSH” or “JEBBUSH” as trade marks (he earlier abandoned an application to register JEB! as a trade mark) and would, in any event, perhaps struggle to demonstrate a likelihood of confusion on the part of the public between himself and Trump.
Hypothetically, it might be easier to maintain a cybersquatting argument, given that the application for the domain name appears to have been made in bad faith and is to the detriment of goodwill in the Bush name and to the benefit of Trump. In particular, now that Jeb Bush has withdrawn, there may be an argument that using his name “Jeb Bush” to direct traffic to Trump’s website may be confusing voters into thinking that Bush is endorsing Trump.
Sadly, we are unlikely to find out. The Trump bandwagon has moved on and Bush might take the view that there is nothing to be gained by scratching what must already feel like an old wound.
In the meantime the case is a salutary reminder of why you need to check domain name renewal dates.