Panel finds three letter domain name was not registered and used in bad faith

UDRP complainant manufactures cameras used in science and industry, and claimed to be the sole user of the letters “PCO” in commerce. The respondent acquired the disputed domain name in 2008 and never established an active website there. The UDRP Panel refused to transfer the disputed domain name to the complainant, finding that the respondent did not regsiter and use the disputed domain name in bad faith.

In making this finding, the Panel observed:

  • Contrary to the complainant’s assertions that it was the exclusive user of the letters PCO, it is in fact common three-letter combination.
  • A number of UDRP cases about three-letter domain names show that such terms are generally in widespread use as acronyms and it is conceivable that they are registered for bona fide purposes.
  • The complainant claimed to have a stong worldwide reputation but actually operated only in a niche, so there was nothing to support the complainant’s claim that the respondent was “obviously” aware of the complainant when it acquired the disputed domain name.
  • The complainant overstated its case when it claimed that there was no conceivable good faith use to which the disputed domain name could be put.

For these reasons, despite the fact that the respondent did not reply in the action, the Panel denied the complaint.

PCO AG v. Register4Less Privacy Advocate, 3501256 Canada, Inc., WIPO Case No. D2017-1778 (October 30, 2017)

About the Author: Evan Brown is a technology and intellectual property attorney helping clients with a wide variety of issues, including domain name disputes under the UDRP. Call him at (630) 362-7237, send email to ebrown [at] internetcases.com, or follow him on Twitter @internetcases. Read Evan’s other blog, internetcases, for more information about general internet law.

UDRP claim failed on bad faith element where domain name registered six years prior to first trademark use

In the case of inMusic Brands, Inc. v. cypack.com / Choi Yun Gul, a single member WIPO panel denied the Complainant’s request to have the domain name <inmusic.com> transferred because the Complainant failed to establish the third UDRP element, namely, that the Respondent registered the disputed domain name in bad faith.

The Complainant is a music technology and consumer electronics brand based in the United States, and has used the trademark INMUSIC since 2007. It registered the mark with the USPTO in 2012. Respondent registered the disputed domain name in 2001. It uses the disputed domain name to publish meditation-themed imagery.

The Panel denied the Complaint because the Complainant failed to demonstrate the the Respondent registered and used the disputed domain name in bad faith. Since Complainant’s trademark rights did not exist at the time the disputed domain name was registered, it could not have been done in bad faith.

inMusic Brands, Inc. v. cypack.com / Choi Yun Gul, WIPO Case No. D2017-1376 (October 19, 2017)

 


About the Author: Evan Brown is a technology and intellectual property attorney helping clients with a wide variety of issues, including domain name disputes under the UDRP. Call him at (630) 362-7237, send email to ebrown [at] internetcases.com, or follow him on Twitter @internetcases. Read Evan’s other blog, internetcases, for more information about general internet law.

Reverse domain name hijacking found where Complainant knew but did not disclose geographic significance of mark

In the case of Oy Vallila Interior Ab v. Linkz Internet Services, a 3-member WIPO Panel denied the Complainant’s efforts to have the disputed domain name <vallila.com> transferred because the Complainant did not prove that the Respondent registered and used the disputed domain name in bad faith.

The Complainant is in the business of providing fabrics and interior design services, and claimed trademark rights in its registered mark VALLILA in the European Union. The Respondent registered the disputed domain name in 2005 and used it to establish a website that contained sponsored links. In response to an anonymous inquiry made on behalf of the Complainant, the Respondent offered to sell the disputed domain name for USD $32,000.

The Panel found that the Complainant failed to demonstrate that the Respondent registered and used the disputed domain name in bad faith. Vallila is the name of a geographic location, namely, an inner suburb of Helsinki, Finland. The Complainant did not disclose in its complaint that its mark was also a place name, though correspondence introduced by the Respondent showed the Complainant had that knowledge.

There was no evidence the disputed domain name was used to take advantage of the trademark significance of the Complainant’s disputed domain name. The web page at the disputed domain name contained sponsored links – but only about a third of them referred to Finland. The Panel observed that in an ordinary case, that amount of connection to the place name would not be enough to show geographic use of the domain name. But the Complainant did not advance anything sufficiently concrete to link the Respondent with specific knowledge of the Complainaint. Even if the Respondent did have such knowledge, it may well also have had knowledge of the geographic significance of the term Vallila and the many other businesses operating there which have Vallila in their name. The price sought for the disputed domain name, therefore, could not necessarily be attributed to the disputed domain name’s resemblance to the Complainant’s trademark.

The Panel went on to find that the Complainant brought the UDRP proceeding in bad faith. The Complainant had argued that the only possible reason for registering the disputed domain name was to take advantage of its significance as the Complainant’s trademark. Moreover, the Complainant relied on the communication from the Respondent’s broker offering the disputed domain name for sale for USD $32,000 as evidence of both registration and use in bad faith. But the Panel found that failure to disclose the geographic significance of the name had the potential to mislead the Panel in a way which could be, and in this case was, highly material to the Panel’s decision. The panel found there to be reverse domain name hijacking.

Oy Vallila Interior Ab v. Linkz Internet Services, WIPO Case No. D2017-1458


Evan_BrownAbout the Author: Evan Brown is a technology and intellectual property attorney helping clients with a wide variety of issues, including domain name disputes under the UDRP. Call him at (630) 362-7237, send email to ebrown [at] internetcases.com, or follow him on Twitter @internetcases. Read Evan’s other blog, internetcases, for more information about general internet law.

No bad faith where respondent rejected complainant’s offer to purchase disputed domain names

In the case of Pro Natura Gesellschaft für Gesunde Emahrung mbH v. Mike Pollard , a WIPO 3-member Panel denied the Complainant’s efforts to have the domain names <fructaid.com>,  <fructaid.net>, and <fructaid.org> transferred because the Complainant did not prove that the Respondent registered and used the disputed domain names in bad faith.

The Complainant is in the business of marketing indigestion relief pills, and claimed trademark rights in its mark FRUCTAID, which it registered in Germany in 2006. The Respondent registered the disputed domain names in November 2012 and does not make use of them with active websites. Respondent claimed to be involved in product development, but that such development is many years from being complete.

The Panel found that the Complainant failed to demonstrate that the Respondent registered and used the disputed domain names in bad faith because:

  • The Respondent never offered for sale the disputed domain names. The Complainant offered $1,500 to buy the three disputed domain names and the ondent rejected that offer. But that alone was not enough to consider that the disputed domain names were registered with the aim of selling them to the Complainant.
  • The disputed domain names were not in use. So there was no evidence of use of the disputed domain names to attempt to attract, for commercial gain, Internet users to the websites by creating a likelihood of confusion.
  • There did not appear to be any pattern or history indicating bad faith registration of domain names on behalf of the Respondent (or his company) nor was there any evidence that the disputed domain names were registered for the purpose of disrupting the business of a competitor.
  • The evidence did not show that the Respondent knew or should have known that the disputed domain names reflected the Complainant’s mark. The Panel found Respondent’s claim to not know the Complainant plausible.

Pro Natura Gesellschaft für Gesunde Emahrung mbH v. Mike Pollard, WIPO Case No. D2016-2531


Evan_BrownAbout the Author: Evan Brown is a technology and intellectual property attorney helping clients with a wide variety of issues, including domain name disputes under the UDRP. Call him at (630) 362-7237, send email to ebrown [at] internetcases.com, or follow him on Twitter @internetcases. Read Evan’s other blog, internetcases, for more information about general internet law.

No bad faith where there was no evidence Respondent targeted Complainant’s mark

In the case of Bagley Argentina S.A. v. Anything.com Ltd., a three-member WIPO Panel denied the Complainant’s efforts to have the domain name <bagley.com> transferred because the Complainant did not prove that the Respondent registered and used the disputed domain name in bad faith.

The Complainant is based in Argentina and has been in the business of selling biscuits and crackers since 1864. It claimed rights in its mark BAGLEY which it has registered in several countries, though most of those registrations were acquired after 2002.  The Respondent registered the disputed domain name on September 27, 1999, and used the disputed domain name to establish a website which pay-per-click links.

The Panel found that the Complainant failed to demonstrate that the Respondent registered and used the disputed domain name in bad faith. The Respondent denied it knew anything about the Complainant’s mark when it registered the disputed domain name. The Panel, for a number of reasons, sided with the Respondent. Among the reasons for the Panel’s decision was the lack of any showing that the Respondent had attempted to target the Complainant or the Complainant’s trademark.


Evan_BrownAbout the Author: Evan Brown is a technology and intellectual property attorney helping clients with a wide variety of issues, including domain name disputes under the UDRP. Call him at (630) 362-7237, send email to ebrown [at] internetcases.com, or follow him on Twitter @internetcases. Read Evan’s other blog, internetcases, for more information about general internet law.

No bad faith where US-born Japanese entrepreneur plausibly denied knowing of Swiss Complainant’s mark

In the case of ETH Zürich (Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich v. Mitsuhiro Suwa, a three member WIPO Panel denied the Complainant’s efforts to have the domain name transferred because the Complainant did not prove that the Respondent registered and used the disputed domain name in bad faith.

The Complainant is one of the leading international universities for technology and the natural sciences. Located in Switzerland, the Complainant has been using the mark ETH for more than 100 years. The Respondent, an American born entrepreneur living in Japan, purchased the disputed domain name in 2014. He claimed that he acquired the disputed domain name for use by his company in potential design projects.

The Panel found that the Complainant failed to demonstrate that the Respondent registered and used the disputed domain name in bad faith.

While the Panel did not doubt that the Complainant is an elite university, its renown as ETH particularly in the United States of America and Japan (the two countries in which Respondent is known to have lived) had not been established in this record such that the Panel would find Respondent’s denial of any knowledge of the Complainant implausible. Respondent is not an engineer and does not speak German. These two facts, coupled with the lack of evidence put forth by Complainant about the fame of the ETH mark, supported Respondent’s denial of knowledge of the mark. Moreover, Respondent’s registration of several other domain names tended to corroborate the Respondent’s claim that he acquired the disputed domain name in part because it is short and therefore attractive to potential clients or business partners.

ETH Zürich (Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich v. Mitsuhiro Suwa, WIPO Case No. D2015-2354 (April 29, 2016)


Evan_BrownAbout the Author: Evan Brown is a technology and intellectual property attorney helping clients with a wide variety of issues, including domain name disputes under the UDRP. Call him at (630) 362-7237, send email to ebrown [at] internetcases.com, or follow him on Twitter @internetcases. Read Evan’s other blog, internetcases, for more information about general internet law.

Questionable decision in UDRP case — Panel finds no bad faith even where Complainant’s trademark registration showed use in commerce prior to registration of domain name

In the case of Fiberstar, Inc. v. Merlin Kauffman, a three-member NAF Panel denied the Complainant’s efforts to have the domain name <fiberstar.com> transferred because the Complainant did not prove that the Respondent registered and used the disputed domain name in bad faith. The Panel’s decision is questionable, in that it apparently ignored evidence of the Complainant’s use of its mark prior to the date the Respondent registered the disputed domain name.

The Complainant is in the business of marketing citrus-based food ingredients, and claimed trademark rights in its mark FIBERSTAR, which it registered in the U.S. in 2006. The registration listed a date of first use in 2001. The Respondent registered the disputed domain name in 2002, and is in the Panel’s view, “a legitimate reseller of generic-word domain names.”

The panel found that the Complainant failed to demonstrate that the Respondent registered and used the disputed domain name in bad faith. Apparently ignoring the alleged 2001 date of first use set forth in the Complainant’s registration certificate, the Panel found that the Complainant “provided little evidence that it possessed trademark rights in its FIBERSTAR mark when the disputed domain name was registered on March 27, 2002.” The Panel continues its analysis:

Complainant did not obtain a recognized trademark registration for its trademark until 2006, well after registration of the disputed domain name. Complainant could have possibly gained enforceable common law rights in its mark prior to the trademark registration, and Complainant does allude to its founding in 1997. However, Complainant has provided no evidence, in terms of notoriety, revenues, promotion, etc., to the Panel which might sustain a finding that Complainant had obtained common law rights in the FIBERSTAR mark prior to trademark registration in 2006, let alone prior to the disputed domain name registration in 2002. See Mancini’s Sleepworld v. LAKSH INTERNET SOLUTIONS, D2008-1036 (WIPO Sept. 30, 2008) (“Relevant evidence of [common law rights] includes length and amount of sales under the mark, the nature and extent of advertising, consumer surveys and media recognition.”); see also Mary’s Futons, Inc. v. Texas Intern’l Prop., FA 1012059 (Nat. Arb. Forum Aug. 13, 2007) (“A common law trademark must be shown by evidence such as sales figures, advertising expenditure, numbers of customers. “).

Based on these considerations, the Panel found “no basis upon which to decide that the disputed domain name was registered with knowledge of Complainant’s rights in the mark and thus possibly in bad faith.” One is left to wonder why the alleged date of first use in the trademark registration — a fact which the Complainant would have asserted under penalty of perjury to the United States Patent Trademark Office and would have been subject to the scrutiny of a government examiner — did not establish a means by which the Respondent would have known of the Complainant’s rights.


Evan_BrownAbout the Author: Evan Brown is a technology and intellectual property attorney helping clients with a wide variety of issues, including domain name disputes under the UDRP. Call him at (630) 362-7237, send email to ebrown [at] internetcases.com, or follow him on Twitter @internetcases. Read Evan’s other blog, internetcases, for more information about general internet law.

Gripe site owner prevails in UDRP action brought by company that allegedly rescinded offer to hire him

In the case of Capgemini North America, Inc. v. Randel Tomina, an NAF Panel denied the Complainant’s efforts to have the domain name <capgeminirecruiting.com> transferred because the Complainant failed to sustain its burden of establishing that the Respondent had no rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name, and because the disputed domain name was not registered and was not being used in bad faith.

The Complainant is an international provider of consulting, technology and outsourcing services and local professional services. The Respondent claims the Complainant rescinded an offer to hire him, and in September 2015 registered the disputed domain name for purposes of (according to the Respondent) warning others about the Complainant’s employment practices.

The Panel found that the Complainant failed on the second UDRP element — rights or legitimate interests — because the Respondent’s website qualified as a bona fide criticism site. There was no evidence, and the Complainant did not assert, that the Respondent’s site was a pretext for cybersquatting. For example, there was no evidence of an intent for commercial gain to misleadingly divert consumers or to tarnish the trademark or service mark at issue. And the site indicated that it was “created to expose [the Complainant], a company that caused [the Respondent] over $100,000 in loses [sic].” Other language that had appeared on the site in the past included “Obviously, [the Respondent is] not affiliated with [the Complainant]. This is just an exposé site regarding [the Respondent’s] experience with [the Complainant] rescinding a job offer, effectively terminating [the Respondent’s] employment, without cause. If you’re looking for [the Complainant] you are in the wrong spot!”

Further the panel found that the Respondent did not register and use the disputed domain name in bad faith. The Panel found that the disputed domain name resolved to a legitimate gripe site. The Panel declined to hold that the Respondent registered the disputed domain name “primarily” for the purpose of disrupting the business of a “competitor,” under paragraph 4(b)(iii) of the UDRP. The facts did not support a determination that the Respondent competed with the Complainant in the business of providing consulting services and the evidence indicated that Respondent’s primary purpose in registering the disputed domain name was to inform third parties of his experience with the Complainant in connection with seeking employment. While Complainant contended that the Respondent registered and was using the domain name for leverage in obtaining a favorable settlement in his employment dispute with the Complainant, the site itself did not contain any mention that the Respondent was seeking compensation for his alleged losses and, as noted by the Complainant, Respondent, to date, had not filed a lawsuit in court.

Capgemini North America, Inc. v. Randel Tomina, NAF Claim Number FA1601001658191 (April 11, 2016)


Evan_BrownAbout the Author: Evan Brown is a technology and intellectual property attorney helping clients with a wide variety of issues, including domain name disputes under the UDRP. Call him at (630) 362-7237, send email to ebrown [at] internetcases.com, or follow him on Twitter @internetcases. Read Evan’s other blog, internetcases, for more information about general internet law.

Complainant did not assert rights during pre-action negotiations; Panel finds reverse domain name hijacking

In the case of Bryn Mawr Communications, LLC v. Linkz Internet Servicesa three-member WIPO Panel denied the Complainant’s efforts to have the domain name <eyetube.com> transferred because the Complainant failed to demonstrate that the Respondent lacked rights or legitimate interests, and failed to show that the Respondent registered and used the domain name in bad faith. Moreover, the Panel found that the Complainant engaged in reverse domain name hijacking in pursuing the action.

The Complainant provides online educational resources related to ocular health and practice management for ophthalmologists, and claimed trademark rights in its registered EYETUBE mark, which if first used in commerce in February 2008. The Respondent registered the disputed domain name in December 2005, and used the disputed domain name to establish a parked page with sponsored advertising.

Rights or Legitimate Interests

The Panel found that the Complainant failed to show that the Respondent had no rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name. The Respondent established its ongoing “use of, or demonstrable preparations to use, the domain name in connection with a bona fide offering of goods or services.”

The evidence indicated that the links on the disputed domain name were related to the domain’s generic meaning. The disputed domain name consisted of two generic words, “eye” and “tube,” that have meanings independent of any connection with the Complainant’s business, and that together form a generic phrase related to television programming. Respondent used the disputed domain name in association with these generic meanings. Although the disputed domain name consisted one link to an eyewear retailer, that link was only visible upon a user’s custom search. In any event, the Panel found that the Complainant failed to show how the eyewear retailer was related to Complainant’s provision of educational resources to ophthalmologists.

Bad Faith

The Panel found that the Registrant did not register the domain name in bad faith, because the Respondent registered the domain name prior to the time that the Complainant established any trademark rights in its mark comprising the disputed domain name. Moreover, in this case, the Registrant’s offer to sell the disputed domain name to the Complainant for more than $145,000 did not constitute bad faith.

Reverse Domain Name Hijacking

Under the circumstances of this case, the Panel found that Complainant engaged in reverse domain name hijacking. It found that the Complainant knew or should have known at the time it filed the Complaint that it could not prove one of the essential elements required by the UDRP. The following circumstances supported a finding of reverse domain name hijacking:

  • The Complainant acknowledged in the Complaint that the Respondent had registered the disputed domain name several years prior to the Complainant’s registration or use of its marks.
  • The Complainant must have known at the time that it registered its <eyetube.net>, <eyetube.org>, and <eyetube.info> domain names that the <eyetube.com> domain name was being used by Respondent and might never be available to Complainant.
  • At least three individuals employed by the Complainant initiated communications with the Respondent’s broker regarding the purchase of the disputed domain name between May 2011 and July 2015, and at no time over the course of those four years did the Complainant make any claim of right, reference any trade or service mark, or suggest it was seeking to settle a legal claim of any kind.
  • The Complainant filed its Complaint only after it failed to negotiate a sale of the disputed domain name.
  • The Complaint failed to make any mention of its pre-suit communications
  • The Complainant misleadingly indicated to the Panel that the disputed domain name contained an advertisement related to the Complainant’s business, when the advertisement at issue was generated through the Complainant’s own use of the disputed domain name’s search function and had no relation to the educational services offered by the Complainant.

For these reasons, the Panel found that the Complainant engaged in reverse domain name hijacking.

Bryn Mawr Communications, LLC v. Linkz Internet Services, WIPO Case No. D2016-0286 (March 29, 2016)


Evan_BrownAbout the Author: Evan Brown is a Chicago technology and intellectual property attorney helping clients with a wide variety of issues, including domain name disputes under the UDRP. Call him at (630) 362-7237, send email to ebrown [at] internetcases.com, or follow him on Twitter @internetcases. Read Evan’s other blog, internetcases, for more information about general internet law.

Panel slaps Complainant with reverse domain name hijacking even though Respondent did not ask for it

In the case of Rack’ n Stack Warehouse (Admin) Pty Ltd v. Chris Carrol, The Rack N’ Stack Warehouse SEQLD, a WIPO Panel denied the Complainant’s efforts to have the disputed domain name <racknstack.net> transferred because the Complainant failed to demonstrate that the Respondent lacked rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name, and failed to show that the Respondent registered and used the disputed domain name in bad faith. And the most interesting part of the case came at the end — where the Panel sua sponte determined that the Complainant had engaged in reverse domain name hijacking.

The Complainant and the Respondent are in the same line of business — selling shelving and other storage solutions — but are in different parts of Australia. They both each legitimately purchased separate “branches” of the same business from the original owner of the business.

The Panel found that the Complainant failed to make out a prima facie case on the second UDRP element (rights or legitimate interests). That the Complainant was successful in a trade mark opposition proceeding concerning a mark that was different from the disputed domain name did not demonstrate that, for the purposes of the UDRP, the Respondent had no rights to or legitimate interests in respect of the disputed domain name.

Further, the Respondent demonstrated to the satisfaction of the Panel that the Respondent has been operating a genuine business under its company name (corresponding to the domain name) for nearly seven years, since when he purchased the original owner’s south-east Queensland business. Moreover, even before that time, the Respondent had been operating a business under a similar name (which incorporated the term “Rack’nStack”), with permission from the original owner, in northern New South Wales. Finally, the Panel found that the Respondent had been commonly known by the disputed domain name for purposes of the UDRP.

Though its determination on the second UDRP element was sufficient to deny the complaint, the Panel went on to consider the third UDRP element — bad faith registration and use. The Panel observed that the the Respondent registered the disputed domain name for the purpose of operating a legitimate business, which it legitimately purchased from the original owner. Accordingly, the Respondent did not register the disputed domain name for the purpose of attracting the Complainant’s customers, or to cause customer confusion, but to attract its own customers and to reflect its company name. Any evidence of actual customer confusion because the Complainant and the Respondent were trading under similar names was not of itself determinative of bad faith registration or bad faith use of the disputed domain name.

Interestingly, even though the Complainant did not ask for such a finding, the Panel concluded that the Complainant had engaged in reverse domain name hijacking. It found that the Complainant had launched the proceedings primarily to harass the Respondent. The Panel did not take too kindly to the Complainant’s style — it particularly criticized the way that the Complainant had submitted a Complaint which was incomplete, that did not directly address the second element of the UDRP, and told a selective story in relation to the background to the dispute. In particular, the factual background and relationship between the parties was described only in an annex to the Complaint and was not otherwise referenced by the Complainant. These facts are of central relevance to the questions of whether the Respondent had rights or legitimate interests and whether the Respondent registered and used the disputed domain name in bad faith. The Panel expressed this dissatisfaction by its sua sponte finding of reverse domain name hijacking.

Rack’ n Stack Warehouse (Admin) Pty Ltd v. Chris Carrol, The Rack N’ Stack Warehouse SEQLD, WIPO Case No. D2016-0102 (March 16, 2016)


Evan_BrownAbout the Author: Evan Brown is a Chicago technology and intellectual property attorney helping clients with a wide variety of issues, including domain name disputes under the UDRP. Call him at (630) 362-7237, send email to ebrown [at] internetcases.com, or follow him on Twitter @internetcases. Read Evan’s other blog, internetcases, for more information about general internet law.

Posts navigation

1 2