I am not a lawyer and the following is simply information obtained from a 3rd party and in my opinion. You can decide if or if not etc. I reached out to the past owner of Ivanka.com who owned the domain name until 2012 to see if he was able to share any information related to the domain name.
Fact: The domain name Ivanka.com was registered on September 2, 1997 by an individual, Ken Favata. The domain name is now owned by The Trump Organization according to whois records.
How did that happen?
Ken owned the domain Ivanka.com and decided to make a “fan site” of Ivanka Trump. Legally speaking, fan sites, gripe sites are fair game to a point. According to Archive.org, this took place in 1998 on Ivanka.com and displayed:
IMO, Personal name domain names are generic in nature and no one person or entity “owns the right to it”. Why should one Ivanka hold claim to it than another. IMO, who has the domain name first or pays to acquire it should be the owner. I can’t just say Jamie.com should legally be owned by myself, because my name is Jamie Zoch for an example!
Was Ivanka.com trademarked? Was the domain owner profiting off of a registered trademark? The earliest trademark I see for “ivanka” was filed on September 19, 1997 for “cosmetics/jewelry/watches/clothing” none of which I see offered for sale on Ivanka.com or ads related or confusingly similar to. That trademark was also filed some 17 days AFTER the Ivanka.com domain was registered. That trademark is inactive now and I couldn’t find a way to see when it went inactive.
Around 2006 is when Ivanka Trump Marks LLC started showing up in trademark filings. The vast majority of those for “ivanka” are inactive now but a few remain active to date. Some are for US and other countries and relate to real estate, jewelry and clothing.
I did not see any trademarks for “ivanka.com”, then or now. There are other “Ivanka” trademarks filed and owned by other people or companies to note.
So, the domain name was registered prior to any trademarks for “ivanka” that I can see, so IMO, it is not likely this domain name was registered solely to profit from a trademark.
The website does clearly relate to and displays images of Ivanka Trump. Is it a “fan site”? Ads displayed? IMO, it appears to be a fan site of sorts that displays images. I do not see ads displayed on the above (from 1998), but I do see a “required password” to view images in other Archive.org captures. There are also a couple “banners” displayed for “FamousBabes.com” and a “Celebrity Link Certified” as seen here. It is not clear if those were paid spots or affiliate based. Also seen in that Archive.org link is the stat counter displaying views of: 627,738,213 so it was a pretty actively visited website.
On June 29, 2012 the owner of Ivanka.com receives an overnight letter in the mail and an email from Ivanka Trump Marks LLC. Here is the letter obtained from Ken:ltr re ivanka.com (1)
IMO, the above is a “legal threat”, which is one form of a way to obtain ownership of a domain name. WIPO or UDRP is another form to dispute ownership of a domain name or paying the requested offering price to the rightful owner.
To note, did you notice this line:
Ms. Trump considers this to be a very serious matter and has authorized our legal team to take all necessary and appropriate actions to bring an immediate halt to your blatant and unauthorized use of his trademark.
His trademark? Either a typo or a cookie cutter form used for her father? appears to be later… because you may have also noticed the: “Your liability to Mr. Trump under the ACPA is in the amount of up to $100,000 per domain name registration.” Sloppy!
From the date of the domains registration by Ken (1997), until the legal takeover notification in June 2012… 15 YEARS had passed since the domain was registered. In general, IMO, the displaying website remained pretty much the same stuff from 1998 to 2012. This part of the legal threat IMO trumps all others and makes me question the motive and reasons behind the 15 year delay of enforcing the infringing marks as claimed, aka “your illegal registration” which is false. The domain was registered prior to any trademark for Ivanka that I can publicly see.
So what happened after the legal threat was sent to Ken? According to Ken:
ivanka’s sleazy lawyers threatened to sue me, so i just gave them the domain for free. i COULD have won in court, since i had the domain long before anyone knew who she was, and there ARE other ivanka’s in the world, but at the time i just didnt have the stomach for it anymore so i handed it over.
i did get them to agree to make a donation to the montefiore childrens hospital in NY in the name of my late father john favata in
consideration of the transfer, though i do not know if they ever did so or in what amount. my dad had recently passed away when all this happened and i was fighting major depression and just lacked the energy to fight for a decent cash payout for the transfer.
in retrospect, i certainly should have.
So in the end, the legal threat worked on behalf of Ivanka Trump Marks LLC and the domain name Ivanka.com changed ownership without any money being paid for the domain to the original registrant.
The domain name Ivanka.com now redirects to IvankaTrump.com.
Again, I want to express that I am not saying one party was right and the other was wrong. IMO, these cases can go “either way” when presented via UDRP and may have been the reason for the direct legal threat route to the domain owner? IMO, this was a strong arm approach to obtain Ivanka.com and the decision could have gone either way in a WIPO/UDRP case.
To back up my opinion on the strong arm, I recall writing a very similar article to this in 2015 on TheDomains.com in regards to the domain name Trump.org. In that case dated shortly after the Ivanka.com case, August 23, 2012 the Trump.org domain owner Chris Puchowicz used his legal rights to fight back and did so with a letter from powerhouse domain attorney John Berryhill. After the reply letter, Chris stated that was the end of it and he never heard from them again, while retaining his ownership of Trump.org to this day with the website now growing due to Mr Trump’s presidency.
In the Trump.org article, Chris also provided me with the paper copy of the legal threat letter used, and it just so happens to reflect the same letter Ken received. I also point out that the Trump Organization was at that time very active in UDRP filings, having filed 53 at that time, winning 51. Ivanka Trump Marks LLC has filed 1 UDRP case for IvankaKushner.com in July 2011 (3 years after being registered) and that case was terminated. Although terminated, the domain is now owed by the Trump org. In general, the legal threat directly holds much less risk. It’s private at the time vs a UDRP filing and if they strike out with the threat letter, they have the option if they see fit to spend the filing fees and file the UDRP.
Although Ivanka.com and Trump.org are two different cases, it does make me question the results of Ivanka.com if Ken fought back like Chris did and what may have transpired.