CIVC, the French champagne wine-growers trade association has won on appeal its complaint under Nominet’s Dispute Resolution Service Policy concerning the unauthorized registration of the domain name champagne.co.uk (the “Domain Name”).

The respondent (“R”), a Mr. Jackson, registered the Domain Name without the knowledge or consent of CIVC, which filed a formal complaint with Nominet in February 2007. But the Nominet Independent Expert held that the Domain Name’s registration was not abusive, and rejected the complaint. CIVC unsurprisingly appealed.

The Nominet Appeal Panel approached the appeal as a reconsideration of the merits. They considered: 1) Did CIVC have rights in the name “champagne” ? and 2) was R’s registration of the Domain Name “abusive” within the meaning of the Nominet Dispute Resolution Service.

The Panel agreed with the Expert that CIVC did indeed have rights in the word “champagne”. However, they did not agree with the Expert’s finding that there had not been an abusive registration by R. They found no evidence of any use of the Domain Name by R in connection with a genuine offering of goods or services before the Complaint was sent to R; indeed, there was evidence that R had used the Domain Name to link to commercial websites, including ones relating to car number plates. Accordingly, the Panel allowed CIVC’s appeal and directed that the Domain Name be transferred from R to CIVC. The decision represents another victory for champagne growers in their ongoing campaign to protect the intellectual property rights in the word “champagne”.