No bad faith where US-born Japanese entrepreneur plausibly denied knowing of Swiss Complainant’s mark

In the case of ETH Zürich (Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich v. Mitsuhiro Suwa, a three member WIPO Panel denied the Complainant’s efforts to have the domain name transferred because the Complainant did not prove that the Respondent registered and used the disputed domain name in bad faith.

The Complainant is one of the leading international universities for technology and the natural sciences. Located in Switzerland, the Complainant has been using the mark ETH for more than 100 years. The Respondent, an American born entrepreneur living in Japan, purchased the disputed domain name in 2014. He claimed that he acquired the disputed domain name for use by his company in potential design projects.

The Panel found that the Complainant failed to demonstrate that the Respondent registered and used the disputed domain name in bad faith.

While the Panel did not doubt that the Complainant is an elite university, its renown as ETH particularly in the United States of America and Japan (the two countries in which Respondent is known to have lived) had not been established in this record such that the Panel would find Respondent’s denial of any knowledge of the Complainant implausible. Respondent is not an engineer and does not speak German. These two facts, coupled with the lack of evidence put forth by Complainant about the fame of the ETH mark, supported Respondent’s denial of knowledge of the mark. Moreover, Respondent’s registration of several other domain names tended to corroborate the Respondent’s claim that he acquired the disputed domain name in part because it is short and therefore attractive to potential clients or business partners.

ETH Zürich (Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich v. Mitsuhiro Suwa, WIPO Case No. D2015-2354 (April 29, 2016)


Evan_BrownAbout the Author: Evan Brown is a technology and intellectual property attorney helping clients with a wide variety of issues, including domain name disputes under the UDRP. Call him at (630) 362-7237, send email to ebrown [at] internetcases.com, or follow him on Twitter @internetcases. Read Evan’s other blog, internetcases, for more information about general internet law.