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.