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Walmart says ‘neigh’ to walmart.horse domain

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Walmart’s Brand Protection department is none too happy with the owner of the domain walmart.horse, it seems. The domain’s owner was hit with a Cease and Desist letter from the retail giant this week.

If you visit the walmart.horse domain this is what you’ll see:

 walmart.horse

Yep, a picture of a horse photoshopped onto a picture of a Walmart. That’s basically it.

The domain’s owner, Jeph Jacques, creator of the Questionable Content comic, published the Cease and Desist letter on his personal site on Sunday.

It reads, in part:

You have registered, without Walmart’s permission or authorization, the domain name(s) ‘walmart.horse’.  The Domain Name incorporates the well known Walmart mark in its entirety, and, by its very composition, suggests Walmart’s sponsorship or endorsement of your website and correspondingly, your activities.

Your use of a Domain Name that incorporates the famous Walmart mark constitutes trademark infringement and dilution of Walmart’s trademark rights and unfair competition.

In view of your infringement of our rights, we must demand that you provide written assurances within 14 days that you will:

  1. Immediately discontinue any and all use of the Domain Name;
  2. Immediately and permanently refrain from any use of the term Walmart or any variation thereof that is likely to cause confusion or dilution.

 Jacques responded:

I would argue that Walmart.horse is an obvious parody and therefore falls under fair use. Publicly available images of a horse, a Walmart store, and comical music make it clear that the site is meant to be a joke. I would be happy to provide a disclaimer on the website explicitly stating this. If you have any requests for other animals you would like to see added to the image on the website, I would happily comply!

 In an email to ArsTechnica, Jacques explained why he registered the domain:

The idea behind the site started out as a conversation with a friend of mine – we were extremely amused by the new .horse TLD and decided to register a bunch of ridiculous domain names with it. As for its meaning, it’s a piece of postmodern Dadaism … Its purpose is to provoke exactly the kind of response it has received.

 .HORSE is just one of the hundreds of new gTLDs that have been released over the past 18 months – we took a look at some of the odder ones in a previous article. Whether or not Jacques will be allowed to continue to operate his site at the walmart.horse domain remains to be seen, but one thing is for sure: this won’t be the last time a brand locks horns with a domain owner over their use of a new gTLD with a brand name.