A WIPO panel recently found in favor of Sofia Vergara regarding her objection to registration of the sofiavergara.org domain name, and the use of the domain for a pay-per-click website featuring content and advertising links for many famous celebrities, including Vergara. Among other things, Vergara asserted that the respondent’s use of the domain for a pay-per-click site – coupled with his subsequent attempt to sell the domain to Vergara for $10,000 – was in bad faith.
The domain registrant unsuccessfully argued that the domain name was being used for a fan site and therefore constituted noncommercial fair use. Specifically, respondent argued that the site’s use of the tag line “We love her,” along with displays of Vergara’s own Instagram pictures, were proof that the website was merely a fan site.
Not persuaded, the one-member WIPO panel found that the posts and links to content on numerous celebrities other than Sofia Vergara contradicted the registrant’s fair use argument that the domain was simply a fan site dedicated to Vergara. The panel further held that the numerous pay-per-click advertisements weighed against protected fair use: “The vice in the conduct, at least for present purposes, is not the posting of such snippets [on other celebrities] but the use of the Respondent’s trademark to attract traffic to his website. That does not qualify as ‘fair use’ under the Policy.”
Finally, the panel held that the respondent’s offer to sell the disputed domain name to the complainant for $10,000 demonstrated further evidence of bad faith because the amount was “well in excess of the likely costs of registering the disputed domain name.”