Jane Glover Barrister – Mediator – Adjudicator

Can Tim Batt keep the domain name coalitionparty.co.nz?


Earlier this year, comedian Tim Batt registered a handful of “Coalition Party” domain names, shortly after the Destiny Church-brigade announced that it was starting a political party under that name. 

I thought it was such a New Zealand-style protest: gentle, non-confrontational, and kind of sweet.  The best part, as you probably know, is that he uploaded an episode of The Male Gayz, a comedy show featuring two gay comedians, onto the site at coalitionparty.co.nz.  I ended up watching the whole thing.  Last time I checked it was still there, if you want to take a look.

It was just so heartwarming after Brian Tamaki’s vile anti-gay rhetoric, linking same-sex marriage to earthquakes and other natural disasters.  What the……???  His hideous commentary made me think I had fallen asleep and woken up 400 years ago.  Which, incidentally, is probably more likely to happen than gay-induced earthquakes.

But as an IP nerd, I also got to wondering.  Would Tim Batt get to keep the domain name, if challenged? 

The likely first step would be a complaint by the Coalition Party to the Domain Name Commission.  The Coalition Party would need to show both that:

  • It has rights in respect of the name “Coalition Party”; and
  • The domain name is an unfair registration in the hands of Tim Batt.

I am pleased to report that the Coalition Party might struggle with both elements.

No rights in the name

“Rights” include, but are not limited to, rights enforceable under New Zealand law.  And a complainant can’t rely on rights in a name or term that is wholly descriptive of a Complainant’s business.

What rights could the Coalition Party point to?  No trade mark registrations, no reputation built up through use, just a few media announcements.  I think it would be hard pressed to get to first base. 

Arguably, too, the name “Coalition Party” is pretty descriptive of a party that is looking to enter into a coalition.  The name is just so forgettable that I had to Google it again in order to write this post.  I’m picking that there aren’t any IP lawyers in the Destiny Church Coalition Party campaign team.

Not unfair

Even if it could show that it had rights in the Coalition Party name, the Coalition Party may not get home on the unfair registration point, either.

The analysis starts unpromisingly for Tim Batt.  The circumstances indicate that he registered the domain name primarily as a blocking registration, and for the purpose of disrupting the business of the Coalition Party, which would ordinarily be enough to show that the registration of the domain name was unfair. 

However, there is a saving provision.  The registration wouldn’t be unfair if Tim Batt made “legitimate non-commercial or fair use of the domain name.”  This includes sites operated solely in criticism of a business.  I think Tim Batt’s activities fit neatly within that exemption.

Helping out

I’m not sure if it would be appropriate for me to act for Mr Batt now that I have written about his potential legal issues, but this would be one case that I would be absolutely delighted to help with on a pro bono basis….

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Jane Glover

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Jane Glover Barrister – Mediator – Adjudicator

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