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August 30, 2010 / Nate Harris

Shakespeare Company LLC v. Bob Pflueger

Summary of Shakespeare Company LLC v. Bob Pflueger
(WIPO Case No. D2010-1126)
Filed July 8, 2010; Decided August 19, 2010 (Panelist: Harrie R. Samaras)

Domain Names: <pflueger.com>

pflueger.com

pflueger.com

The Parties

The Complainant Shakespeare Company LLC (“Shakespeare”), of Columbia, South Carolina, has rights in the mark PFLUEGER dating back to 1881, when Ernest F. Pflueger founded a predecessor fish hook company. Through a series of acquisitions and mergers, the company expanded its offerings to all aspects of fishing tackle and gear. Shakespeare now owns several U.S. trademark registrations for the mark PFLUEGER covering fishing reels, reel parts, and tackle.The company’s website is accessible at <pfluegerfishing.com>. Shakespeare spends significant amounts each year to promote its PFLUEGER mark. According to Shakespeare, a Google search for “Pflueger” proves that the most common usage of the term today is in association with its fishing products.

The Respondent Bob Pflueger (one of a reported 192 Pfluegers in the United States) registered the disputed domain on August 14, 1996, as a place to host family photo albums. The disputed domain carried a disclaimer to the effect that Mr. Pflueger is not associated with “the fishing rod people,” but provided a link to <fishusa.com>, a site that sold products from Shakespeare’s competitors. Shakespeare alleged that Mr. Pflueger received “click-through” fees for hosting the link.

Identical or Confusingly Similar

The disputed domain name is identical to Shakespeare’s PFLUEGER mark, in which it has established rights through longstanding use and trademark registrations.

Rights or Legitimate Interests

Mr. Pflueger has (unsurprisingly) proven that his last name is Pflueger. “The use of one’s own surname in a domain name corresponds to a legitimate customary practice and is, as a rule, sufficient evidence of a legitimate right or interest in the domain name. Bob Pflueger has a right to use his own name in connection with family photos, because he has used the name in connection with family photos for more than five years. He has made a legitimate noncommercial and fair use of the Domain Name without intent for commercial gain to misleadingly divert consumers or to tarnish the trademarks of Complainant.”

Mr. Pflueger points out that Shakespeare does not sell its own products on its site. Rather, Shakespeare sells its products solely through retail stores. Mr. Pflueger claims that the link to <fishusa.com> was an attempt to direct people looking for Shakespeare’s products to a retail store’s website that (he believed) sold products from Shakespeare as well as its competitors. The Panel accepts Mr. Pflueger’s explanation, noting that there is no evidence he received revenue from click-throughs.

Thus, the Panel finds that Mr. Pflueger has rights or legitimate interest in the disputed domain name.

Bad Faith

Because Mr. Pflueger has established rights in the disputed domain name, the Panel does not consider whether it was registered or used in bad faith.

Decision

The complaint is denied.


Commentary

I find it funny that the “Shakespeare Company,” which has nothing to do with the Bard or acting, is accusing someone else of having a misleading name.

Epilogue

8/29/2010: <pflueger.com> is still up and running. No sign of family photo albums, though– just a really dark picture of the Respondent.

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