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Tumblr loses domain dispute to stop Tublr.com from infringing on its name

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There are opportunists out there looking to make a quick buck with sketchy tactics – like using domain names that sound or look like a popular website and redirecting it to a scammy “survey” site. Tumblr, believing that a survey site was profiting from a domain that omitted the “M” in Tumblr.com, took action to shut the site down but lost the Uniform Domain-Name Dispute-Resolution Policy (UDRP) dispute reports The Domains.

Tublr.com’s domain name looks a bit like Tumblr.com. There’s no doubt about that, which explains Tumblr.com’s trademark infringement claims. But Tumblr wanted Tublr banned for misrepresentation and of course the fact that the domain that Tublr redirects to is http://rewardzone.sponors.com/home.html?, one of those scammy survey sites that ask you for your personal info.

Tumblr has been using the name Tumblr since February 19, 2007, but registered the domain for tumblr.com on June 8, 2006. The trademark for Tumblr was filed on October 27, 2008, and the official registration of the name, when Tumblr was awarded, occurred on November 24, 2009. (Keep track of the time here because those detail are very important.)

Surprisingly Tumblr lost the dispute, but Tublr successfully argued that it was a matter of coincidence that Tumblr.com and Tublr.com have such similar names.

Tublr may look like Tumblr – the design of the site is clearly influenced by Tumblr – but a World Intellectual Property Organization panel mediating the complaint found no evidence of trademark infringement that Tumblr claimed was used as part of a phishing scam. What Tumblr is talking about is the fact that sometimes Internet users might mistakenly (whether unknowingly or due to a misspelling) visit Tublr.com, and may be inclined to submit their personal information to “claim a reward.”

What ultimately may have sealed the doomed fate of the complaint was that while Tublr.com was registered after Tumblr.com, and the registration of Tublr occurred nine months later, Tumblr.com was actually used as a trademark less than one month before the Tublr domain was registered.

Tumblr.com wasn’t even publicized before or after Tublr.com was registered the panel argues, and adds that there was no way that the owners of Tublr.com could have known about Tumblr.com. “The Panel is mindful that the registration of a domain name does not per se impart any trademark rights, or that the world at large becomes imputed with knowledge of such a domain name. It remains necessary for sufficient use and publicity of a trademark to exist before any unregistered trademark may arise,” the panel said. “There is also insufficient evidence before the Panel in this case that the Respondent must have been aware of the trademark TUMBLR, or even the existence of the domain name <tumblr.com> as of March 27, 2007.”

However, Tumblr picked up 75,000 users in just two weeks after launching in February 2007, which if you think about it is plenty of time to register a domain like Tublr.com – which takes just a few minutes.

All in all, Tumblr’s lawyers may have slipped up and Tublr.com will remain confusing everyone who forgot the “M.”