The government of Quebec waited too long to stake its claim on Quebec.com according to a recent ruling by the World Intellectual Property Organization which heard the provincial government’s complain against a domain name wholesaler that currently owns the right to the domain name.
Last December, the province filed a complaint with the WIPO claiming that the disputed domain name infringes on Quebec’s intellectual property rights on the grounds that Quebec.com could be easily confused with the Quebec trademark.
Quebec.com is currently owned by Anything.com which is the property of Tucows Inc., an Internet services and telecommunications company headquartered in Toronto. The domain name has been registered to Anything.com since 1998. The domain name is being used by the company as a launch point for links advertising Quebec-related products and services.
The Quebec government, however, claimed than Anything.com also intends profit by creating confusion among people looking for information on Quebec who mistakenly think Quebec.com is a government Web site. According to the complaint such incidents would tarnish the image of the government trademarks.
Anything.com, however, said the province can’t claim protection for Quebec as a trademark because it is a descriptive term and is not subject to trademark protection.
The three-member WIPO panel rejected Anything.com’s arguments saying the province had the right to protect the word Quebec.
The panel also rejected allegations of reverse hijacking against the province saying that Quebec had the right its try and protect its trademark.
The panel, however, rejected the province’s claim that Quebec.com was masquerading as an official government site and tarnishing the Quebec name in the process.
“The present case is a classic example of problems facing complainants who do not pursue their remedies in a timely manner,” the panel said in its ruling. “…If it is assumed that Complainant has been performing its government duties properly, it must have been aware or should have made itself aware of the Disputed Domain Name and the way it is being used, not briefly, but for 15 years.”