When Is a Fan Site Not a Fan Site? SofiaVergara.Org and Sofia-Vergara.Org

What makes a fan site a fan site? Specifically, why is not OK, but seems just fine?

To make a website using a celebrity’s name as the domain name, a fan has to toe the line of the UDRP – the Uniform Domain Name Resolution Policy, which all website operators agree to accept as a means of resolving disputes over contested domain names. Under the UDRP, a complainant can have a website’s domain name cancelled or transferred by showing:

(i) the domain name is identical or confusingly similar to a trademark or service mark in which the complainant has rights; and
(ii) the domain name owner has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the domain name; and
(iii) the domain name has been registered and is being used in bad faith.

Celebrities can usually show the first element pretty easily, if they’ve used their name as a trademark. But for genuine fan sites, the second two are much harder to prove – a fan has a legitimate interest in showing their appreciation for their favorite celebrity, and that’s not acting in bad faith. But bad faith can be shown (and a lack of legitimate interest can be imputed) when the website owner is seeking commercial gain by creating a likelihood of confusion.

Which brings us to Sofia. She filed a UDRP complaint with WIPO, the World Intellectual Property Organization, one of the leading sites to resolve domain name disputes. Her complaint contended that, purportedly a fan site, was simply trading off her name for ad clicks, and demanded that it be transferred. WIPO agreed, largely because the website features a feed of gossip about other celebrities. (Check out that link ASAP, if you’re interested – once the transfer ordered by WIPO takes effect, Ms. Vergara will own the domain name and the site won’t look the same.)

But it’s instructive to compare a site like The hyphen wouldn’t make a difference to WIPO, but the content is different. Everything on appears to be about Sofia herself. A fan has a right to express their appreciation of a celebrity, whether or not the celebrity wants it. That’s one reason why we won the and disputes at WIPO: “expressing support and devotion to Ron Paul’s political ideals is a legitimate interest that does not require Complainant’s authorization or approval.” Glad to see another UDRP decision based on respect for the balance of free speech rights and trademark interests.

Comments are closed.