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Julie Garber

The Elizabeth Taylor Trust Wins Rights to Adult Entertainment Domain Name

By November 27, 2012

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In 1978, actress Elizabeth Taylor assigned the rights in her name, likeness and appearance to a company she created called Interplanet Productions Limited. In addition, after Elizabeth Taylor died on March 23, 2011, The Elizabeth Taylor Trust, a revocable living trust created by the actress in 1998 after she suffered a near death experience, became the owner of all post-death publicity rights to her voice, name, photograph and likeness. As required by California law, the Trustees of the trust promptly filed a notice to this effect with the California Secretary of State.

All of this did not stop Patrick Fitzgerald, "an entrepreneur who has developed commercial websites," from registering the domain name liztaylor.xxx in December 2011, apparently with the intent to promote adult entertainers known as Liz Taylor and Lizz Taylor. This prompted The Elizabeth Taylor Trust, Interplanet Productions Limited, and The Elizabeth Taylor Cosmetics Company (the "Elizabeth Taylor entities") to file a UDRP complaint against Mr. Fitzgerald in order to request the transfer of ownership of liztaylor.xxx from Fitzgerald to the Elizabeth Taylor entities.

In their complaint, the Elizabeth Taylor entities argued that "the disputed domain name is confusingly similar to the ELIZABETH TAYLOR mark and the short form 'Liz' for the name 'Elizabeth' does not negate the confusing similarity." In addition, the Elizabeth Taylor entities have established rights to the mark ELIZABETH TAYLOR through its continuous use in commerce, and the mark is closely associated with the name Liz Taylor. The entities also believe that Mr. Fitzgerald registered the domain name in bad faith "since it redirects internet users to other commercial websites and [Mr. Fitzgerald] derives commercial benefit from click-through fees."

In response to the complaint, Mr. Fitzgerald argued that liztaylor.xxx is clearly different from the ELIZABETH TAYLOR trade name because "there is no association in the marketplace between the mark ELIZABETH TAYLOR and adult entertainment." In addition, while Ms. Taylor was alive, she did not call herself "Liz Taylor" or use that name for commercial purposes, and she once stated "that she hated the name Liz." Finally, Mr. Fitzgerald was not acting in bad faith but simply registered the domain name with the intent to develop an adult entertainment website, which would certainly not be located by consumers seeking perfumes and hats associated with the actress Elizabeth Taylor.

In the end the one member UDRP panel was not swayed in the least bit by Mr. Fitzgerald's arguments. (In fact, at one point in the opinion, the panel member stated "Whether [Elizabeth Taylor] personally liked the shortened version of her full name or not is irrelevant" - ouch.) The opinion concluded that the disputed domain name is confusingly similar to a registered trademark in which the Elizabeth Taylor entities have rights, that Mr. Fitzgerald has no rights or legitimate interests to use the disputed domain name, and the disputed domain name was registered and is being used in bad faith. Accordingly, the panel ordered that ownership of the liztaylor.xxx domain name be transferred to the Elizabeth Taylor entities.

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