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Lockheed Domain Case
The Lockheed Martin Corporation (a Defence Company) has lost control of hosting a domain devoted to cannabis paraphernalia in an appeal from a previous ruling. Nominet (registry for .uk domains) used a dispute resolution process. Lockheed lost the case and appealed but then failed an appeal in front of a panel of three people.
The ukskunkworks.co.uk domain is owned by UKSkunkworks Ltd, (a company selling cannabis seeds and cannabis paraphernalia).
Lockheed Martin tried to gain control of the domain relating to secret laboratory where it has developed new products called Skunk Works. It owns various UK and community trademarks with the related term.
Lockeed Martin claimed UKSkunkworks registered the domain name to disrupt its business, using a blocking tactic and said registration would cause customer confusion.
The panel found these claims unlikely, since the term skunk works was not a common phrase in the UK, and not immediately associated with Lockheed Martin.
The domains panel stated"The complainant [Lockheed Martin]'s arguments rely heavily on the fame of its use of the name skunk works, attested by a collection of articles from magazines. Underlying these three contentions there appears to be an assumption by the complainant that this fame is such that anyone seeing the name must have prior awareness of Lockheed Martin's use, The panel's view is that at least in the United Kingdom, there is no such general awareness.
The respondent says that he had never heard of the complainant or its subsidiaries before being contacted about the name," it said. "Furthermore, the general lack of awareness in the UK of the complainant's use of the name means that users of the respondent's website would be highly unlikely to associate it in any way with the complainant.
It has not been shown by the complainant that the activities of the complainant are illegal or that the respondent has been prosecuted for illegal activities, Naturally, the panel can sympathise with LMC's desire to avoid association with activities that people may object to, even if the activities are within the law.
Lockheed Martin's original use of the name 'skunk works' was humorous, and a sense of humour may be appropriate to this situation," said the ruling. "There may be some comfort for Lockheed Martin in the fact that many people have as little wish to be associated with military aircraft as have Lockheed Martin to be associated with illegal drug use. The risk of 'contamination by association' therefore seems low."
The panel was scathing about the claim in which UKSkunkworks' business was illegitimate and designed to damage it. Lockheed Martin listed decisions of the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO)'s dispute resolution panels in favour to support the case. The Nominet panel, noted these panels were located in North America where there was more association of Skunk Works with Lockheed Martin.
Litigation expert John Mackenzie of Pinsent Masons, (the law firm behind OUT-LAW.COM), said the case demonstrated needs to present evidence for supporting arguments in front of dispute resolution panels. "This is another illustration that big brands have to be careful how they present their case, Here they seemed to rely on previous WIPO cases they had won, which obviously didn't get them very far. Brand owners have to take each case on its own merits and make sure you have enough evidence to support your case."
Either party can take the case to court after the process is complete. "They could go to court, which would have little regard to the case heard by the panellists, the court they went to would depend on the normal rules of jurisdiction, so it could be a US court or a UK court." said Mackenzie.