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White Ribbon : Australian organization battles British activist over .ORG domain

Is a white ribbon generic?

Is a white ribbon generic?

You cannot have too many active organizations fighting against violence, as experienced by women today, and yet, a UDRP against the domain WhiteRibbon.org unveils a darker layer.

Erin Patria Margaret Pizzey, is an English family care activist and a novelist. Currently aged 77, the daughter of a British diplomat born and in China, Pizzey is actively working to help victims of domestic violence.

In November 2014, Pizzey became owner of the AVFM WhiteRibbon.org website, attracting criticism by the original White Ribbon Campaign as “a copycat campaign articulating … archaic views and denials about the realities of gender-based violence.” (Wikipedia.)

The so-called “original” campaign operates from WhiteRibbon.ca, but in this case it was the Australian chapter, White Ribbon Australia, that filed a UDRP against the domain, at the WIPO.

According to the UDRP:

The Complainant is an Australian company that is a member of the White Ribbon Campaign, a male-led movement to end violence by men against women. The Complainant owns registered rights in Australia in trade marks that incorporate the word “white ribbon”, including the WHITE RIBBON trade mark, WHITE RIBBON CAMPAIGN trade mark, WHITE RIBBON DAY trade mark, WHITE RIBBON design trade mark, AUSTRALIA’S CAMPAIGN TO STOP VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN WHITE RIBBON design trade mark, WHITE RIBBON NIGHT trade mark (“WHITE RIBBON Trade Marks”), the earliest of which was registered on June 7, 2007.

The Respondent is an individual involved in researching and publishing articles regarding domestic violence. The Disputed Domain Name was transferred to the Respondent on November 9, 2014.

The Respondent, pointed out that the white ribbon flag is a universal, generic symbol protesting against many things, including violence:

“The Complainant is the Australian branch of the White Ribbon Campaign, and does not have a right to enforce its rights outside of Australia. The Complainant has not provided evidence that its activities or fame extend beyond Australia. Even if the Complainant’s rights extend beyond Australia, it cannot claim exclusive rights over the term “white ribbon”. “White ribbon” is used by various other advocacy groups to spread awareness regarding their cause (e.g. advocating safe childbirth and advocating against alcohol, drugs, tobacco, gambling and pornography). The Complainant only registered the WHITE RIBBON trade mark on November 21, 2014, which is after the Respondent acquired the Disputed Domain Name. All of the Complainant’s other trade marks which were registered before the Disputed Domain Name contain words in addition to “white ribbon”. The Respondent therefore alleges that the Complainant cannot establish the first element of the Policy.”

A three member panel focused on the existing marks claimed by the Complainant and stated the following:

“Based on the above, the Panel finds that the Respondent registered and has been using the Disputed Domain Name with the intention of confusing Internet users into believing that the Disputed Domain Name is associated with the Complainant. “

For the full text of the UDRP decision against WhiteRibbon.org click here.

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