Inter-Continental Hotels Corporation and Six Continents Hotels, Inc. requested the transfer of no less than 1,542 domain names in a single UDRP complaint brought against respondent Daniel Kirchhof. They alleged infringement of their HOLIDAY INN, HOLIDAY EXPRESS, INTERCONTINTAL, CROWNE PLAZA, STAYBRIDGE SUITES, HOTEL INDIGO, and CANDLEWOOD SUITES brands. The defendant had registered numerous - now that's an understatement - domain names with the pattern "BRAND-PLACE NAME"; e.g. "holiday-inn-london-stansted.com".
The respondent's domain names pointed to the booking engine www.hotelreservation.com, and the respondent collected affiliate fees for referrals. As the panelist noted, "When arriving at the Respondent’s websites, Internet users were likely to believe that they had arrived at the official website for one of the Complainant’s hotels, as that is the clear impression given by the website content. As the websites provide a mechanism for booking at the hotel (albeit through another provider), the Complainant is likely to suffer commercial loss when an Internet user books through the Respondent’s website when compared with a booking directly on one of the Complainant’s websites." Unsurprisingly, the panelist was convinced that Daniel Kirchhoff had both registered and used these domain names in bad faith.
The case is legally interesting because the complaint was brought in the name of two complainants, and the UDRP does not specifically provide for multiple-complainant complaints. The panelist held that a complaint could be brought by multiple complainants if the complainants "have a common legal interest and/or have been the target of common conduct by the Respondent":
The Complainants submit that this is an appropriate case for multiple complainants, because both Parties have a common legal interest and/or have been the target of common conduct by the Respondent. Although they are strictly separate entities, both Complainants are members of the same corporate group (InterContinental Hotels Group, “IHG”) and therefore have a common legal interest.
Further, the large number of disputed domain names are all very similar in structure and format, and the websites to which they resolve appear to be derived from the same template, meaning that each Complainant’s case against the Respondent is almost identical in nature. The Respondent’s conduct in relation to the majority of the disputed domain names has been consistent regardless of the Complainant involved. Additionally, there is only one registrar for all the disputed domain names.
The Panel therefore concludes that the inclusion of multiple complainants in this case is acceptable. There is clearly a common grievance on the part of both Complainants, and despite the extremely large and unprecedented number of disputed domain names, it would be procedurally efficient to deal with all matters in the one proceeding given the almost identical facts among them.
In the end, 1,519 of the concerned domain names were transferred, in 10 cases, the transfer was denied and 13 domain names had been cancelled before the decision