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National Arbitration Forum Decides Fate of Auschwitz Domain Name

Wednesday, October, 12, 2011


The National Arbitration Forum is often asked to decide questions that hinge on issues related to intellectual property arbitration.  Such was the case this month when the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum's case against the website Auschwitz.org was decided. 

 

The museum is a memorial and interpretive site located on the physical site of the concentration camps Auschwitz I and Auschwitz II run by the Nazi Party during World War II.  The museum also wanted to gain rights to the website name Auschwitz.org on the grounds that they are the logically rightful owners of the cyberspace domain to which it points.

 

However, the current domain owner argued that Auschwitz, in fact, is a historical word and therefore cannot belong exclusively only the museum organization.

 

National Arbitration Forum Decided the Case

 

The dispute went before a panel organized under the auspices of the National Arbitration Forum, where M.  Kelly Tillery, serving as a panelist, made a determination that Auschwitz.org is not sufficiently similar to the museum's current registered domain names and trademarks.  When consumers are not likely to become confused, it is less likely that the domain name ownership will be transferred. 

 

The arbitration focused in part on the Polish forms of the words in question.  The domain name occupies only one word but the museum's current trademark is several words long in Polish, making confusion unlikely in the view of the arbitration panel deciding the case.  Tillery also noted that trademark rights do not usually reside in the names of real geographic locations.