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.