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A UDRP panel in Target Brands, Inc. v. Quinv S.A. / Korchia Thibault recently denied Complainant, Target Brands Inc.’s (“Target”) application to transfer the domain taget.com. The domain was registered in April 2009 by the Respondent (Quinv S.A.) who is located in Luxembourg, operating under the website quinv.com as self-proclaimed “domain investors.”

Target operates a chain of over 1700 retail discount stores in the United States (look for the bulls-eye). It holds numerous trademarks all over the world and is basically just really big, popular and everywhere. Target argued that Respondent was “typo-squatting” by intentionally omitting the letter “r” from “target”, and capturing unknowing users who make mistakes when searching for target.com.

The Respondent argued that the term “taget” is an actual word in Swedish (train) and Latin (touch), and that an Internet search for the term produces over 8 million references that confirm “taget” is widely used. It also claimed that it acquired the domain because it was “short”, and that it had no specific knowledge of the TARGET trademarks when it acquired the domain because there were no Target stores in Europe. The Panel rejected this argument noting that a search for the term “taget” produced results related to Target.

The good news for Target stopped at the similarity issue however, as it determined that Target could not prove Respondent lacked legitimate rights in the domain and/or that it had acted in bad faith. Target’s main argument was that Respondent was using the domain in order to generate click-through fees by redirecting users to a URL that “re-directs to another URL and eventually ends up at the URL, which is the Complainants own site.” The Panel however viewed this connection as tenuous and noted that the links on the Respondent’s website did not reference Target. It is unclear why the Panel did not explain how posting links (an activity which is usually not associated with legitimate commercial use of a domain) in this case rendered this use acceptable, why the “Related Searches” area on the page, which lists “Target” as a related search, is a legitimate use, or why the word “target” is listed in numerous places on the site (see left). 

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With respect to bad faith, the Panel put a great deal of stock in the fact that (i) Respondent never attempted to sell the domain for a profit and that there was no evidence it had misused it; and (ii) that Complainant waited three (3) years to file a UDRP after sending the initial Cease & Desist letter, even though it knew Respondent owned the domain, was evidence that its business was not being harmed or disrupted by Respondent, stating:

Respondent acquired the Domain Name in 2009. The Domain Name was originally registered on 14 April 2004. Complainant’s cease and desist letter was dispatched three years ago. There is no assertion by Complainant that any bad faith use has occurred before now. A three-year gap between acquisition and use does not necessarily support a conclusion that the registration was made with any intent to target the mark owner for abusive purposes. Further, if Respondent’s conduct was causing disruption to Complainant’s business, as alleged, the Panel would have expected it to have acted far more promptly.” 

Thus, even though the Panel seemed to understand that Respondent was attempting to capitalize on the domain’s close proximity to the word “target”, it found that Complainant had simply waited too long to act after initially discovering the domain, and that posting links which did not directly reference Target was not misuse. The decision is a good reminder to brand-holders to act promptly once they discover a case of typo-squatting that they believe could harm their business, and to make sure that you capture direct evidence of misuse if possible...