Summary and implications

Inter-Continental Hotels Corporation and Six Continents Hotels, Inc., which are part of the same group of companies, have succeeded in having 1,519 domain names transferred as a result of a single domain name complaint.

The Complainants own between them a number of well-known hotel brands, including “Holiday Inn”, “Intercontinental” and “Crowne Plaza”. They filed a complaint with WIPO under the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (the UDRP) in relation to 1,529 domain names registered by an individual named Daniel Kirchhof. They also alleged that Mr Kirchhof had registered over 22,000 other domain names which incorporated trade marks owned by other unrelated hotel operators, such as Hilton.

The decision of the WIPO Panellist is not surprising, although the sheer number of domains has made this newsworthy. It nevertheless underlines WIPO’s willingness to permit multiple complainants in a single complaint: a timely indicator that WIPO is adapting to the types of abuse that companies are now being faced with in the real world.

As the Panellist recognised, this case presents “a text book example of the type of bulk registration strategy to which UDRP process and jurisprudence is having to adapt in order to keep pace with the broader developments and registration trends within the domain name system”.

Facts of the Case

The domain names in issue typically consisted of one of the Complainants’ trade marks combined with a geographic term (such as crowne-plaza-berlin.com) or combined with a descriptive term (such as crowne-plaza-grand-hotel.com). The domain names all resolved to a website which allowed webusers to book rooms in the Complainants’ hotels and competitors’ hotels using a third party booking engine.

The WIPO Panellist found:

  • that this was a suitable case for there to be more than one complainant in a single complaint, despite the fact that the UDRP does not specifically provide for this. The two Complainants had a common grievance, and it made sense procedurally to deal with all of the domain names in the one complaint;
  • in favour of the Complainants on 1,519 of the 1,529 domain names included in the complaint. The Complainants had satisfied the test that the domain names were identical or confusingly similar to the Complainants’ relevant trade marks; the respondent did not have any rights or legitimate interests in the domain names; and the domain names had been registered and used in bad faith. These domain names were ordered to be transferred to Six Continents Hotels, Inc.

It is difficult to see how the Complainants expected to succeed in relation to those 10 domain names which were not transferred. They did not contain any of the Complainants’ trade marks and included domain names such as <cape-cod-holiday-estates.com>.