Donald Trump loses cybersquatting fight against Mar-A-Lago domain

A World Intellectual Property Organization panelist sides with man who registered the domain in 1997.

Mar-a-Lago on Palm Beach Island, Palm Beach, Florida, USA.

Donald Trump and his Mar-A-Lago club have failed to secure the domain name mar-a-lago .com through a cybersquatting complaint.

Trump’s affiliate DTTM Operations LLC, filed the complaint under the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution (UDRP) policy with World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).

Marq Quarius of “1 LLC” registered the domain name in 1997, along with the domain name maralago .com. (He no longer owns the latter domain name. Trump’s organization has also filed a case against that domain that hasn’t been decided.)

In defense of his registration, Quarius had a “colorful” explanation. Panelist W. Scott Blackmer summarized (pdf) it:

He says that he registered the disputed domain name in March 1997, before the Complainant was using a similar domain name, after three family pets died, at his mother’s suggestion. “Mar” was a dog named in short after the Respondent’s first name, Marq. “A” represented “Alfred,” a duck that frequented the pond behind their home, named after Alfred Hitchcock. “Lago” was a nickname for “Lag”, a slow cat the family had rescued.

Blackmer didn’t fully buy this explanation but noted that Quarius created a pet memorial site on the domain name.

Ultimately, the case failed for a couple of reasons. One is that, even though Mar-A-Lago existed before the domain was registered in 1997, Trump’s lawyer didn’t show common law trademarks for the name pre-dating the domain registration. It only received a registered trademark after the domain was registered.

Blackmer also noted:

Importantly, the Respondent has retained and used the disputed domain name for essentially noncommercial purposes for more than 25 years, without trying to sell it to the Complainant or third parties. Even when the Complainant tried to purchase it, the Respondent asked for the proceeds to be given to a charity. These facts are not consistent with typical cybersquatting behavior and lend credence to the Respondent’s account.

The panelist noted that the domain registrant’s reason for registering the domain strains credulity, but since this isn’t a court proceeding, there’s no way to cross-examine the registrant or conduct discovery.

This is the third time Trump’s organization has gone after the domain. It sent cease-and-desist letters in 1998 and 2020. According to Quarius, after receiving the second letter, he agreed to transfer the domain if the Trump organization would donate the registration costs to a pet charity. Quarius says the Trump organization didn’t follow through.

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