Slam Dunk On Domain Name Transfer
Complainant is the business entity of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, one of the most famous of all professional basketball players. In addition to a 20 year career as a professional player, Abdul-Jabbar has coached professional basketball teams, acted in first-run movies and appeared in many commercial product endorsements. Complainant or Abdul-Jabbar own two trademarks for "Kareem Abdul-Jabbar", with a first use date of 1991 for one of those marks.
In 1999, the Respondent registered the disputed domain name, "kareemabduljabbar.com". In response to the Complaint, Respondent relied upon a fan site defense. That defense, however, was an "air ball".
Respondent made no use of the disputed domain until 2001, at which point it resolved to a typical "under construction" site with hyperlinks to unrelated commercial websites. In July 2002, the content changed to a one page summary of Abdul-Jabbar's basketball career. At some point, the site included either hyperlinks or the Internet address for a commercial website operated by Respondent at www.vegasgamblers.com. The information about Abdul-Jabbar on the website never changed and the site was disabled in 2007, at which time it read "this account has been suspended".
The Panel held that Respondent's site did not meet predicate requirements for a fan site. The site was never "active" for more than five years and its content never changed from its perfunctory recital of Abdul-Jabbar's resume and accomplishments. Panels that have deemed fan sites legitimate dealt with sites that served as alternatives to sites authorized by the celebrity or team that owned the name, and provided current information and often the opportunity for fans to learn about and discuss various topics related to their subject. They typically include non-commercial activities, not a static information sheet like Respondent's site. As such, these legitimate fan sites have functioned similarly to a non-commercial business, often with activities that were independent of the website. Respondent's website, in contrast, was not entirely "noncommercial". For eight months the site contained no reference to Abdul-Jabbar and contained numerous links to assorted commercial businesses, none of which had any apparent relationship to Abdul-Jabbar or even to basketball. Then, after posting the information sheet about Abdul-Jabbar, the web page included the reference to Respondent's commercial site, www.vegasgamblers.com -- unrelated to Abdul-Jabbar in any way. Faced with these facts, the Panel determined that Respondent did not establish a fan site in any reasonable sense of the term and ordered transfer of the disputed domain. A slam dunk for Abdul-Jabbar! Ain-Jeem, Inc. v. Barto Enterprises, Inc., Philip Barto, WIPO Case No. D2007-1841