National Arbitration Forum




Hard Rock Cafe International (USA), Inc. v. Ryhan Estate Vineyards

Claim Number: FA0811001235573



Complainant is Hard Rock Cafe International (USA), Inc., represented by Zachary D. Messa, of Johnson, Pope, Bokor, Ruppel & Burns, LLP, Florida, USA.  Respondent is Ryhan Estate Vineyards, California, USA.



The domain name at issue is <>, registered with, Inc.



The undersigned certifies that he or she has acted independently and impartially and to the best of his or her knowledge has no known conflict in serving as Panelist in this proceeding.


Dawn Osborne as Panelist.



Complainant submitted a Complaint to the National Arbitration Forum electronically on November 24, 2008; the National Arbitration Forum received a hard copy of the Complaint on November 26, 2008.


On November 24, 2008,, Inc. confirmed by e-mail to the National Arbitration Forum that the <> domain name is registered with, Inc. and that the Respondent is the current registrant of the name., Inc. has verified that Respondent is bound by the, Inc. registration agreement and has thereby agreed to resolve domain-name disputes brought by third parties in accordance with ICANN’s Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (the “Policy”).


On December 4, 2008, a Notification of Complaint and Commencement of Administrative Proceeding (the “Commencement Notification”), setting a deadline of December 24, 2008 by which Respondent could file a Response to the Complaint, was transmitted to Respondent via e-mail, post and fax, to all entities and persons listed on Respondent’s registration as technical, administrative and billing contacts, and to by e-mail.


A timely Response was received and determined to be complete on December 24, 2008.


On December 31, 2008, pursuant to Complainant’s request to have the dispute decided by a single-member Panel, the National Arbitration Forum appointed Dawn Osborne as Panelist.



Complainant requests that the domain name be transferred from Respondent to Complainant.



A. Complainant


The Complainant is a Florida corporation that has engaged in the business of leisure and entertainment using its “Hard Rock” mark since at least as early as 1978.  The Complainant expanded its franchise through a myriad of music related ventures including restaurants, hotels, casinos, merchandising, theme parks and live music events.  Further, the Complainant is the owner of federally registered trademarks and service marks that include Hard Rock, Hard Rock Café, Hard Rock Hotel, Hard Rock Casino, Hard Rock Live and Hard Rock Park.


In addition, the Complainant obtained the domain name, <> in July 1998 and has continually used the domain to feature its website.


Based on this, the Hard Rock marks have acquired goodwill and have developed distinctiveness and are recognized as well known and high quality goods and services which have their origin with or have been authorized by the Complainant.


The Respondent is the owner of the domain name, <>.  On July 28, 2008, the Complainant sent the Respondent a demand letter informing the Respondent that its use of the term Hard Rock Wine Company and the domain name, <> infringed their trade marks.  The Respondent duly signed and returned the demand letter accepting the terms set forth in the letter, including the transfer of the domain name to the Complainant.


The Respondent failed to transfer the domain name despite the Complainant sending a letter demanding the agreed upon transfer.


The disputed domain name consists of the Complainant’s trade mark Hard Rock and the generic/descriptive term “winery”.  The addition of the generic term winery is not sufficient to avoid confusion between the domain name and the Complainant’s marks. This is further evidenced by the Complainant as shown in an email received from Margaret Pedersen stating as follows:

the name Hard Rock [is] rather confusing and wanted to find out if there is any affiliation to the world-wide Hard Rock franchise”.


The Respondent has no legitimate rights or interests in the domain name.  For instance, the demand letter signed by the Respondent shows that the Respondent recognized that it had no legitimate rights or interests in the domain name and without hesitation it agreed to transfer the domain name to the Complainant.  Moreover, the Respondent’s lack of legitimate rights or interests was evidenced when it completed the dissolution and abandonment of the name Hard Rock Wine Company, LLC.


Further, the Respondent’s use of the domain name simply provides links to third party websites and is therefore not a bona fide or legitimate use of the aforementioned domain name.


Having signed the demand letter, the Respondent implicitly agreed that the registration and maintenance of the domain was in bad faith.  Despite such recognition, the Respondent failed to transfer the domain name to the Complainant.


Compounding the evidence of bad faith the Respondent has made attempts to sell the domain name to the Complainant for $27,000.  This sum is well in excess of the Respondent’s out of pocket costs attributable to the registration of the domain name.


B. Respondent


The Respondent did not provide a formal response to the Complainant’s contentions, but wrote a letter to NAF saying he had contacted GoDaddy to transfer the name to the Complainant and inviting the Complainant to contact GoDaddy.




The Panelist finds that the Complainant does have trade mark rights which are confusingly similar to the Domain Name for the purposes of the Policy the Respondent does not have rights or a legitimate interest in the Domain Name which was registered and used in bad faith. 



Paragraph 15(a) of the Rules for Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (the “Rules”) instructs this Panel to “decide a complaint on the basis of the statements and documents submitted in accordance with the Policy, these Rules and any rules and principles of law that it deems applicable.”


Paragraph 4(a) of the Policy requires that the Complainant must prove each of the following three elements to obtain an order that a domain name should be cancelled or transferred:


(1)   the domain name registered by the Respondent is identical or confusingly similar to a trademark or service mark in which the Complainant has rights;

(2)   the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the domain name; and

(3)   the domain name has been registered and is being used in bad faith.


Identical and/or Confusingly Similar


Apart from the .com suffix which is not taken into account for the purposes of the Policy, the Domain Name consists of the Complainant’s HARD ROCK registered mark and the generic word “winery”. The addition of the word “winery” does not serve to distinguish the Domain Name from the Complainant’s mark. See Arthur Guinness Son & Co. (Dublin) Ltd. v. Healy/BOSTH, D2001-0026 (WIPO Mar. 23, 2001) (finding confusing similarity where the domain name in dispute contains the identical mark of the complainant combined with a generic word or term); see also Rollerblade, Inc. v. McCrady, D2000-0429 (WIPO June 25, 2000) (finding that the top level of the domain name such as “.net” or “.com” does not affect the domain name for the purpose of determining whether it is identical or confusingly similar). Indeed the addition of the term “winery” compounds the likelihood of confusion between the Domain Name and the Complainant’s trade mark as the Complainant serves wine in its bars and restaurants.  The Panelist finds that the Domain Name is confusingly similar to the Complainant’s registered trade mark HARD ROCK and as such satisfies para 4(a) (i) of  the Policy.   


Rights or Legitimate Interests


The Respondent has not filed a Response. The Complainant has indicated that a demand letter was sent to the Respondent, where upon the Respondent signed and returned the letter stating it would transfer the domain name to the Complainant.  The Respondent did not.  The Respondent has indicated to NAF that it has contacted GoDaddy to transfer the name but this does not appear to have taken place.  The Complainant has also indicated that it has not endorsed the Respondent in any way and the Respondent’s business has no connection with the Complainant”. The Respondent is not commonly known by a name equivalent to the Domain Name. Complainant contends that Respondent’s disputed domain name resolves to a website displaying third-party links to unrelated websites.  This type of use of a confusingly similar domain name is neither a bona fide offering of goods and services pursuant to Policy ¶ 4(c)(i), nor a legitimate noncommercial or fair use pursuant to Policy ¶ 4(c)(iii).  See U.S. Franchise Sys., Inc. v. Howell, FA 152457 (Nat. Arb. Forum May 6, 2003) (holding that the respondent’s use of the complainant’s mark and the goodwill surrounding that mark as a means of attracting Internet users to an unrelated business was not a bona fide offering of goods or services); see also Computer Doctor Franchise Sys., Inc. v. Computer Doctor, FA 95396 (Nat. Arb. Forum Sept. 8, 2000) (finding that the respondent’s website, which is blank but for links to other websites, is not a legitimate use of the domain names). As such the Respondent does not appear to have any rights or legitimate interest in the Domain Name. The Complainant has satisfied para 4 (a) (ii) of the Policy.     


Registration and Use in Bad Faith


Paragraph 4 (b) of the Policy sets out four non exclusive criteria which shall be evidence of the registration and use of a domain name in bad faith including:


“circumstances indicating [the Respondent] has registered or [has] acquired the domain name primarily for the purpose of selling, renting or otherwise transferring the domain name registration to the complainant who is the owner of the trade mark or service mark or to a competitor of that complainant for valuable consideration in excess of [its] documented out of pocket costs directly related to the Domain Name.”   


“by using the domain name, [the Respondent] has intentionally attempted to attract, for commercial gain, Internet users to [its] web site or other on-line location, by creating a likelihood of confusion with the complainant’s mark as to the source, sponsorship, affiliation, or endorsement of its web site or location or of a product or service on its web site or location.”


The Respondent requested $27,000 to transfer the name to the Complainant. See Neiman Marcus Group, Inc. v. AchievementTec, Inc., FA 192316 (Nat. Arb. Forum Oct. 15, 2003) (finding the respondent’s offer to sell the domain name for $2,000 sufficient evidence of bad faith registration and use under Policy ¶ 4(b)(i)); see also Bank of Am. Corp. v. Nw. Free Cmty. Access, FA 180704 (Nat. Arb. Forum Sept. 30, 2003) (“Respondent's general offer of the disputed domain name registration for sale establishes that the domain name was registered in bad faith under Policy ¶ 4(b)(i).”).


The Domain Name has been used to point to third party links not connected with the Complainant. As such it appears that by using the domain name, the Respondent has intentionally attempted to attract, for commercial gain, Internet users to its web site by creating a likelihood of confusion with the complainant’s mark as to the source, sponsorship, affiliation, or endorsement of its web site or the products or services on its web site.   


As such the Complainant has proven that the Respondent has registered and used the Domain Name in bad faith under Paragraphs 4 (b) (i) and (iv) of the Policy.  


Further, the criteria in Para 4 are non exclusive. As already stated above, the Respondent signed the demand letter as requested by the Complainant, implicitly agreeing the registration and maintenance of the disputed domain name was in bad faith. 




Having established all three elements required under the ICANN Policy, the Panel concludes that relief shall be GRANTED.


Accordingly, it is Ordered that the <> domain name be TRANSFERRED from Respondent to Complainant.




Dawn Osborne Panelist
Dated: 14 January 2009







Click Here to return to the main Domain Decisions Page.


Click Here to return to our Home Page


National Arbitration Forum