A warning to owners of “Visit” domain names.
A National Arbitration Forum has handed the domain name VisitNorway.us to Innovasjon Norge, dba Innovation Norway, which owns the domain name VisitNorway.com. The basis for transfer is that the complainant owns common law rights to the term “VisitNorway”. It has applied for a U.S. design trademark for the term, but it is still pending.
This case was a bit disturbing, so I did a little digging on “visit location” decisions. Another recent decision was VisitHouston.org, where a National Arbitration Forum panel gave the domain name to Greater Houston Convention & Visitors Bureau. Surprisingly, the convention and visitors bureau has a granted U.S. trademark for “VisitHouston”, which seems like a descriptive term to me.
In both the VisitNorway.us and VisitHouston.org cases, neither domain owner bothered to respond to the complaints. They were also only parking the domains.
That contrasts to the 2007 case for Visit-Copenhagen.com, where a WIPO panel denied The Wonderful Copenhagen Foundation’s complaint for the domain. In this case, the respondent operated a tourism web site at the domain. Furthermore, the panel found the term “Visit Copenhagen” descriptive and that the complainant had not acquired distinctiveness for the term:
There can be no doubt that the terms “visitâ€ and “Copenhagenâ€ are descriptive. Also the combination of both terms does not constitute a distinctive term in the context of the offering of tourist services in the broadest sense, since its general meaning is the invitation to visit Copenhagen. Based on Danish trademark law that corresponds to generally accepted principles, the term “visitcopenhagenâ€ can therefore be considered to be a protected unregistered trademark/service mark only if it has acquired distinctiveness for the Complainant as a result of extensive use as a trademark/service mark.
It sure seems that VisitLocation.com domain names shouldn’t fall prey to adverse UDRP decisions. But it’s clear that panels will award the domains to complainants in cases where they are parked and the complainant has used the term “Visit ___” extensively. So if you hold any of these domain names, it’s probably worth putting some content on them.