202106.11

Geographical indications cybersquatting: the Gorgonzola case

The Gorgonzola defense organization recently succeeded in a UDRP case concerning the domain name gorgonzola.blue (WIPO, D2021-0722, Consorzio per la Tutela del Formaggio Gorgonzola v. Whois Privacy, Private by Design, LLC / Gerald Baton, May 30, 2021). This transfer decision is almost an event as the organizations for the protection of geographical indications, despite the strong notoriety of many of them, have hard times trying to put an end to cybersquatting cases through extrajudicial means, in particular when the top-level-domain is governed by the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP) such as .COM or .CLUB.


CaseGI (country) / Domain name(s)Decision
WIPO D2017-0253, Consorzio per la Tutela del Formaggio Gorgonzola v. Rob Monster / DigitalTown, Inc., April 12, 2017Gorgonzola (IT) / gorgonzola.cityDenied
WIPO D2018-0168, Regulatory Board of the Rioja Qualified Designation of Origin (D.O.CA) v. Domain Hostmaster, Customer ID: 43528876679114, Whois Privacy Services Pty Ltd / Privacy.co.com, Inc Privacy ID# 1027108 / Kevin Daste, May 4, 2018Rioja (ES) / rioja.comDenied
WIPO DIE2007-0005, Comité Interprofessionnel des Vins de Champagne v. Richard Doyle, February 5, 2008Champagne (FR) / champagne.ieTransfer
WIPO DCO2011-0026, Comité Interprofessionnel du vin de Champagne v. Steven Vickers, June 21, 2011Champagne (FR) / champagne.coDenied
WIPO D2008-1939, Consejo Regulador del Cava v. Adrian Lucas, January 28, 2009Cava (ES) / cava.comDenied
WIPO D2017-1659, Consorzio Tutela Vini Emilia v. Dennis Leeuwerik, ByEmilia B.V., October 25, 2017Vini Emilia (IT) / byemy.wineDenied
WIPO D2016-0258, E. Remy Martin & C° v. Zhang Bo Wen/Shang Hai Lei Mi Jun Du Mao Yi You Xian Gong Si, April 6, 2016Cognac (FR) / louisxiii-cognac.topTransfer
WIPO D2019-2848, Consorzio per la Tutela del Formaggio Gorgonzola v. WhoisGuard, Inc. / John Tattersall, January 31, 2020Gorgonzola (IT) / gorgonzola.bestTransfer
WIPO D2017-0554, Consorzio per la Tutela del Formaggio Gorgonzola v. William Wise, May 14, 2017Gorgonzola (IT) / gorgonzola.clubDenied
WIPO, D2021-0722, Consorzio per la Tutela del Formaggio Gorgonzola v. Whois Privacy, Private by Design, LLC / Gerald Baton, May 30, 2021Gorgonzola (IT) / gorgonzola.blueTransfer
WIPO DEU2020-0003, Consorzio Tutela Taleggio c. Gilberto Ramponi Rivelli, Publinord s.r.l, 26 aprile 2020Taleggio (IT) / taleggio.euDenied
WIPO D2003-0661, Consorzio del Formaggio Parmigiano Reggiano v. La casa del Latte di Bibulic Adriano, October 21, 2003Parmigiano Reggiano (IT) / parmigiano.orgTransfer
DRS D00004479 (appeal), C.I.V.C. (Comité Interprofessionnel du Vin de Champagne) v. Steven Terence Jackson, Appeal for case D00004479, 17/08/2007Champagne (FR) / champagne.co.ukFirst decision overturned
DRS D00004479, C.I.V.C. (Comité Interprofessionnel du Vin de Champagne) v. Steven Terence Jackson, 16/05/2007Champagne (FR) / champagne.ukTransfer
DRS D00000359, Consorzio del Prosciutto di Parma v. Vital Domains Limited, Appeal for case D00000359, 12/09/2002Prosciutto Di Parma (IT) - parmaham.co.uk and parma-ham.co.ukUpheld
DRS D00000359, Consorzio del Prosciutto di Parma v. vital domains ltd., 12/07/2002Prosciutto di Parma (IT) / parmaham.co.ukUpheld
CRDD, Consorzio del Formaggio Parmigiano Reggiano v. Famiglia Lusuardi Società Agricola S.S., 25 maggio 2012Parmigiano Reggiano (IT) / parmigianoreggiano.itTransfer
WIPO D2000-0347, Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin v. Net-Promotion, Inc., June 14, 2000Champagne (FR) / champagneclicquot.com, champagne-clicquot.com, champagnecliquot.com, and champagne-cliquot.comTransfer
WIPO D2013-1322, Centre Vinicole Champagne Nicolas Feuillatte, Union de Cooperatives Agricoles v. Collector Consulting FZ, September 12, 2013Champagne (FR) / champagne-nicolas-feuillatte.comTransfer
WIPO D2016-2051, Ville de Paris et Carré des Champs Elysées contre Dept Invoice, EAOC, 30 novembre 2016Champagne (FR) / champagne-pavillonledoyen.comTransfer
WIPO DFR2005-0006, Comité Interprofessionnel du Vin de Champagne (CIVC) contre Internet SARL, 4 juillet 2005Champagne (FR) / champagnes.frTransfer
WIPO DFR2008-0001, Baccarat SA contre Jacques Touroute, 28 février 2008Champagne (FR) / baccaratchampagne.frCancellation
WIPO D2008-0010, Baccarat SA contre Jacques Touroute, 27 février 2008Champagne (FR) / baccaratchampagne.comCancellation
WIPO D2010-0002, Consorzio del Prosciutto di Parma v. Edilservizi S.r.l., 22 febbraio 2010Prosciutto di Parma (IT) / lavorazioneprosciuttiparma.com, prosciuttocrudoparma.com, prosciuttodolceparma.com, prosciuttoparma.net, prosciuttoparma.org, prosciuttoparmastagionato.com, and prosciuttoparmastagionatura.comTransfer


The Consorzio per la Tutela del Formaggio Gorgonzola has not always been successful in the extrajudicial proceedings it has carried out. For example, the third-party decision-makers had rejected the request to transfer the domain names gorgonzola.city (WIPO D2017-0253, Consorzio per la Tutela del Formaggio Gorgonzola v. Rob Monster / DigitalTown, Inc., April 12, 2017) and gorgonzola .club (WIPO D2017-0554, Consorzio per la Tutela del Formaggio Gorgonzola v. William Wise, May 14, 2017).

The gorgonzola.city case

In the first case, on the day the complaint was submitted, the domain name was used in connection with a website dedicated to the town of Gorgonzola. The peculiarity of this case is the .CITY top-level domain. The three-member panel acknowledges that “it is entirely possible that the choice of an American company to register the Disputed Domain Name <gorgonzola.city> might have been prompted by the famous trademark for cheese” (WIPO D2017-0253, Consorzio per la Tutela del Formaggio Gorgonzola v. Rob Monster / DigitalTown, Inc., April 12, 2017). Indeed, as is often the case with geographical indications, the product’s notoriety exceeds that of the territory. Moreover, the panel indicates that Gorgonzola is a small Italian village with no significant tourist attraction. Given the circumstances, what would be the interest, for the defendant, to devote financial and human resources to the tourist development of the small village of Gorgonzola? However, given the .CITY TLD, it was particularly challenging to provide proof of bad faith. From a strategic point of view, it would have been helpful for the municipality of Gorgonzola to register the domain name gorgonzola.city during the .CITY sunrise period.

The gorgonzola.club case

In the second case, concerning the domain name gorgonzola.club, the panelist noted the short life of the domain name (only four months between its registration and the submission of the UDRP complaint), which, moreover, had not yet been used. The denial of the complaint was substantially based on the following statement:

“It is not implausible that a party unaware of the Complainant, or a party aware of the Complainant but cognizant that the protection of the denomination of origin “Gorgonzola” does not extend to the United States, would seek to register a Domain Name consisting of the word “gorgonzola” to take advantage of the descriptive meaning of the word in the United States, namely as a particular type of cheese.” (WIPO D2017-0554, Consorzio per la Tutela del Formaggio Gorgonzola v. William Wise, May 14, 2017).

The demonstration of the defendant’s bad faith indeed requires a subjective analysis aimed at proving that the domain name holder knew or should have known the trademark on the day of registration. In this regard, the existence of a trademark in the country where the defendant has his/her residence or registered office may constitute an indication of bad faith in the context of a UDRP proceeding, which is a-territorial in nature. In this case, by indicating that the defendant can, with all impunity, register a domain name identical to a distinctive sign whose protection “does not extend to the United States(id.), the panelist had proceeded to a territorialization of the UDRP and, in doing so, had artificially introduced the territoriality principle into the UDRP. Furthermore, it is hard to imagine that the Respondent was unaware of the geographical indication “Gorgonzola” and that this choice was purely due to chance. Let us also recall that Article 2 of the UDRP principles (icann.org) obliges those registering a domain name to carry out a search on prior rights. Finally, it is worth noting that, subsequently, the defendant had no hesitation in assigning gorgonzola.club to the complainant. Heartbreaking? Intellectual honesty calls for questioning the real passion of the defendant: the Italian blue cheese or the financial value of the domain name gorgonzola.club revalued upwards after a UDRP procedure leading to a rejection decision?

The gorgonzola.blue case

Gorgonzola has been produced for centuries in Gorgonzola, Milan, acquiring its greenish-blue marbling in the 11th century” (Wikipedia.org, English version of June 11, 2021): hence the choice of the domain name gorgonzola.blue. And the defendant, in case D2021-0722, assured that he did not know “Gorgonzola”! It seems that no one knows this cheese, which, paradoxically, does not prevent multiple registrations of domain names reproducing its protected name. The respondent supported his position by referring to the previous cases: “gorgonzola.city” and “gorgonzola.club”. The mischievousness of cybersquatters is noticeable. Fortunately, and legitimately, the panelist ordered the transfer of the domain name to the Consorzio per la Tutela del Formaggio Gorgonzola (WIPO, D2021-0722, Consorzio per la Tutela del Formaggio Gorgonzola v. Whois Privacy, Private by Design, LLC / Gerald Baton, May 30, 2021).

Conclusion

The gorgonzola.city, gorgonzola.club, and gorgonzola.blue cases reveal that cybersquatters are fully conscious of the flaws of the UDRP in the presence of a geographical indication. One must be aware of the path leading to the registration of domain names such as gorgonzola.city, gorgonzola.club or gorgonzola.blue: a mere advertisement or merchandise available in the nearby grocery store would bring out in the minds of some the idea of registering a given domain name, with no other project than that of selling it to the most legitimate organization. Sometimes, reading a UDRP decision involving a geographical indication leaves a bitter taste. It would be an exaggeration to claim that third-party decision-makers indulge in a certain naivety, although this seems plausible in some cases. Indeed, panelists are bound by the legal regime of geographical indications, which, to say the least, has a lot to envy that of well-known marks. Nevertheless, in some cases, a careful analysis of the facts allows third-party decision-makers to brush aside the whimsical arguments of cybersquatters.

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