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Reverse domain name hijacking ruling over SaintLazarusUSA.com

WIPO panelist hands down RDNH ruling.

Saint LazarusEvery once in a while I read a UDRP involving organizations in a world I simply didn’t know existed.

Such is the case in The American Association of the Order of St. Lazarus, Inc. v. Thierry Villejust over the domain name SaintLazarusUSA.com.

The complainant was found guilty of reverse domain name hijacking in the case.

The respondent is “a member of the governing council of the Orleans obedience and serves as the Grand Bailiff of the Grand Bailiwick of the USA which engages in charitable activities in the United States through a nonprofit organization, Saint Lazare USA, Inc. Respondent registered the disputed domain name in 2011 his capacity as Grand Bailiff of the organization.”

According to the respondent, both his organization and the complainant represent two obediences of the ancient “Military and Hospitaller Order of Saint Lazarus of Jerusalem” and each have used the names and symbols of the Order for centuries, beginning in the 11th century. Both parties claim their origins with the Military and Hospitaller Order of Saint Lazarus of Jerusalem, an order of chivalry founded by crusaders in the 11th century.

(You can read more about it on Wikipedia.)

The respondent notes:

Respondent’s organization has roots in one faction of the Order. That faction has at times operated under the auspices of the Royal House of France, initially through the 1800s, after which time it operated without that protection. In 2004, when the Royal House of France resumed its protection, the Order split, resulting in more than one obedience. Respondent represents the US arm of an obedience that operates under the auspices of the French royal house known as the “Orleans obedience,” while Complainant apparently represents another branch of the order known as the “international Malta obedience.”

That’s some rich history.

Panelist Debra J. Stanek ruled in the respondent’s favor on all three elements of the UDRP.

Stanek found the complainant guilty of reverse domain name hijacking on four grounds:

– Although Complainant did establish ownership of US federal trademark registrations containing terms used in the disputed domain name, it did not provide any support for its claim of unregistered or common law rights in its domain name or ownership of an international registration for LAZARUS and did not persuade the Panel that either of the marks that it did own was confusingly similar to the domain name.

– Complainant either knew or should have known, at the time of filing the Complaint, that it was not the “only legitimate organization” to use the name “The Military and Hospitaller Order of Saint Lazarus of Jerusalem” since the crusades.

– Complainant either knew or should have known, at the time of filing the Complaint that Respondent was affiliated with an organization that had rights to use the name “The Military and Hospitaller Order of Saint Lazarus of Jerusalem” and other indicia related to the Order.5

– The allegations of the Complaint were largely unsupported by facts, evidence, or argument and omitted material information regarding the history of the Order, and other pertinent facts that were, or should have been known to Complainant.

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  1. Acro

    It should be noted that the same Complainant went after the .org first (registered to another Respondent) and lost that case as well.

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