Harvard Lampoon Loses Domain Complaint

The Harvard Lampoon, a semi-secret Sorrento Square social organization that used to occasionally publish a so-called humor magazine, was denied rights to "lampoon.com" after accusing the owner of that domain name of piggybacking off of its brand.

The Lampoon tried to argue that Reflex Publishing, a Florida-based company that owns "lampoon.com" and has a host of common words registered as domain names, had “no rights or legitimate interests in the Domain Name,” according to a domain arbitration panel filing.

The Lampoon's complaint against Reflex Publishing was denied late last month, however, after failing to prove that Reflex Publishing's use of the domain name was done with malicious intent.

"After carefully considering the totality of the circumstances in the record, the Panel does not find any evidence demonstrating that Respondent registered the Domain Name with the aim of profiting from and exploiting Complainant's rights in the LAMPOON Mark," the panel said.

The crux of the panel's finding was that there isn't anything special about the word "lampoon," a word that can be found in the dictionary.

"[T]he LAMPOON Mark nonetheless comprises the common dictionary word 'lampoon,' which the record and the Panel's own searching indicates is subject to significant and widespread third-party use in its ordinary or descriptive sense," the panel said, listing other uses of the word, such as "in articles discussing satirical commentary, in the name of business establishments, as a font name, in event names, book titles and name of hanging lamp."

Maybe the Harvard Lampoon really isn't as notable as its members may believe.

“As a Lampoon writer, the court’s decision saddens me, but as a domain rights enthusiast, I find it thrilling," said Charles A. Sull ’12, the organization's president.

The panel that made the determination was associated with the Arbitration and Mediation Center, associated with the World Intellectual Property Organization. The Lampoon filed the complaint in April.

—Staff writer Leanna B. Ehrlich can be reached at lehrlich@college.harvard.edu.

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