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Archive for April, 2010

Panelist Troubled By Citizen Hawk For Filing Careless Complaint

Tuesday, April 27th, 2010

This should be a lesson to UDRP practitioners and trademark owners, to pay attention to details when filing a Complaint and to realize that some of the Panelists actually read these Complaints. In the recent domain name dispute decision of Letstalk.com, Inc. v. Inofirma, Ltd c/o Domain Administrator FA1310279 (Nat. Arb. Forum, April 21, 2010), a single member Panel made some harsh statements about the shortcomings of a Complaint filed by Citizen Hawk.  Although we would normally go through the elements and facts in the case, the important lesson for this posting is how the Panel addressed some procedural and substantive issues. The Complainant filed an Additional Submission to which the Panel provided the following ruling:

Having carefully reviewed Complainant’s initial submission, the Panel believes that it was prepared by some sort of automatic process with little or no human review.  For example, the Complaint refers throughout to “Complainant’s Mark(s)” and “Disputed Domain Name(s),” even though there is only one relevant mark and one domain name in dispute.  The Complaint includes an obviously false contention regarding the timing of the registration of the disputed domain name, and includes other extraneous boilerplate material (for example, argument and authorities for the proposition that a top-level domain is irrelevant to the question of identicality or confusing similarity—clearly inapplicable in this case, where the trademark includes “.com”). Given the lack of care devoted to the preparation of the Complaint, the Panel is not inclined to exercise its discretion to consider an Additional Submission from Complainant.  The Panel has reviewed the parties’ initial and additional submissions, and finds no compelling reason to consider any additional material in this proceeding.

The scolding by the Panel did not end there. The Panel skipped right to the third element, bad faith and explained that the facts were not sufficient in showing the Respondent was directing any of its activity towards Complainant or, Complainant’s customers. In fact, as the Panel noted in the Respondent’s argument section, the disputed domain was registered in 2003, whereas Complainant’s mark had not been registered until 2010. In light of the delay for filing the UDRP action, Respondent sought a ruling of Reverse Domain Name Hijacking. The Panel made the following observations:

Mere lack of success of the Complaint is not itself sufficient to demonstrate that it was brought in bad faith. Such a finding may be appropriate where the disputed domain name predates the Complainant’s trademark, see id., but in this case Complainant had made active use of its later-registered mark for several years prior to Respondent’s registration of the similar domain name.  Nor does the passage of time between the domain name registration and the initiation of this proceeding lend substantial support to Respondent’s claim of bad faith.  As noted above (in the discussion of the parties’ Additional Submissions) the Panel is quite troubled by the apparent carelessness with which the Complaint in this proceeding was prepared.

Ultimately, the Panel DENIED the Complainant’s requested transfer and found that Complainant had engaged in Reverse Domain Name Hijacking.

Important Statistics About UDRP Panelists from WIPO and NAF

Monday, April 26th, 2010

Recently some important information about the UDRP process has come to light. First, domain attorney Zak Muscovitch put out a survey of National Arbitration Forum Panelists. (Available here) Then the good folks at Domain Name Wire did a similar study of WIPO. (Available here) The interesting information from NAF shows the great difference between the amount of cases some Panelists are “assigned” compared with others.

 What was most interesting was a simple finding, that out of a possible 141 Panelist, NAF had supplied one Panelist with approximately 966 cases, out of the nearly 10,000 handled by NAF. This equates to nearly 10% of the total case count. Since many in the industry would hope this selection process was random, the numbers tell a different story.

According to the survey done by Muscovitch the following results were supplied (As of March 2010)

The top 10 most active panelists are as follows:

1. Carolyn Marks Johnson with 966 cases  10% of total cases
2. James A. Carmody with 889 cases  9.4% of total cases
3. Charles K. McCotter Jr. with 818 cases  8.6% of total cases
4. Ralph Yachnin with 720 cases  7.6% of total cases
5. Tyrus R. Atkinson Jr. with 623 cases  6.5% of total cases
6. Karl V. Fink with 499 cases  5.2% of total cases
7. John J. Upchurch with 478 cases  5% of total cases
8. Harold Kalina with 460 cases  4.8 % of total cases
9. Paul Dorf with 440 cases  4.6 % of total cases
10. Louis E. Condon with 437 cases  4.6% of total cases
The top 10 most active panelists are all from the United States.

Who are the Top 5 Panelists who deny the most claims?

1. David Bernstein  73.7% claims denied
2. David A. Einhorn  70.5% claims denied
3. Gilbert Thornton Cave  66.6% of claims denied
4. G. Gervaise Davis  62.5% claims denied
5. Daniel B. Banks  46.3% claims denied

Who are the Top 5 Panelists who transfer the most claims?

1. Harold Kalina  97.1% claims transferred
2. Ralph Yachnin  95.7% claims transferred
3. Carolyn Marks Johnston  92.7% claims transferred
4. Tyrus R. Atkinson Jr.  92.1% claims transferred
5. Charles K. McCotter Jr.  91.6% claims transferred 

Domain Name Wire then came out with a review of WIPO, and even got a response from WIPO regarding their “process” involving the selection of Panelists. The results of this survey seem to show the opposite approach by WIPO, based on the statistics. The survery found as follows:

Top 10 Panelists by Number of Cases

Willoughby, Tony 293
Abbott, Frederick M. 238
Donahey, M. Scott 236
Foster, Dennis A. 204
Barker, Sir Ian 196
Page, Richard W. 196
Limbury, Alan L. 193
Bernstein, David H. 160
Partridge, Mark 158
Perkins, David 157

Domain Name Wire received a written statement from David Roache-Turner, Head of Domain Name Dispute Resolution Section at WIPO. The important take away from this letter follows:

As to WIPO’s own panel appointment considerations, these are informed by a range of highly conservative, legally and ethically responsible factors, including: panel language capability; party and panel nationality; geographic diversity; panel availability; panel experience; jurisdictionally relevant expertise; where possible, prior cases involving parties at issue, and citation in pleadings to previous decisions; and lack of panel conflict as confirmed by declarations of independence and impartiality.

These numbers are telling, and important for an Domain Name practitioner or domain owner, in showing the contrasting nature of NAF and WIPO.

SUBWAY Loses Relatively Simple Dispute

Tuesday, April 13th, 2010

     subway

Normally we would spend some time reviewing the facts and findings of the case, however Domain Name Wire did a great job, so we suggest you read thier post available HERE. We were preparing to provide a full write up on this case, but they did a perfect job summarizing and highlighting what every practioner should know about domain disputes.  The case  Doctor’s Associates Inc. v. Atomix (WIPO D2010-0060, April 6, 2010) is a lesson learned for other attorneys and trademark owners. Looks like Subway needs to sell a few more $5 Footlongs.

Two Mailing List Companies Fight Over Cyberspace

Tuesday, April 6th, 2010

usdatacorp-b usadata

In the recent domain name dispute decision of USADATA, Inc. v. K2, Incorporated and US Data Corporation FA1307329 (Nat. Arb. Forum, April 1, 2010) a single member panel was faced with a dispute over the domains www.usdatacorporation.com and www.usdatawest.com. Complainant claims rights to the mark USADATA, which was registered on the Supplemental Register in 2002. Complainant maintains a web site at www.usadata.com. Respondent provided a response and both parties provided additional submissions.

Paragraph 4(a) of the Policy requires that the Complainant must prove each of the following three elements to obtain an order that a domain name should be cancelled or transferred: (1) the domain name registered by the Respondent is identical or confusingly similar to a trademark or service mark in which the Complainant has rights; (2) the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the domain name; and (3) the domain name has been registered and is being used in bad faith.

The Panel’s findings were as follows: (1) The disputed domain names were confusingly similar and Complainant had established it had sufficient common law rights to the mark USADATA.  (2) The Panel found that both parties established rights and legitimate interests in the disputed domain name, therefore noting that Complainant failed to prove up this element.

(3) The bad faith argument is what creates a particular interest in this decision. The Panel found that the evidence did not support Complainant’s assertion that the Respondent has registered the disputed domain names in bad faith nor used them in violation of Policy ¶ 4(a)(iii). Respondent made an argument that the doctrine of laches applied, since Respondent had used the domains for many years prior to this dispute. The Panel explained:

The Respondent asserts that the Complainant has waited five years before making any claim in respect to the disputed domain names, and although not a defense to a complaint brought under the policy, it should be considered by the Panel as evidence for Respondent in its considerations of the elements of the policy.  The Panel understands that the doctrine of laches is no defense but has chosen to consider Complainant’s long delay in asserting any rights to the disputed domain names as a factor against Complainant.  The Panel therefore finds that this evidence is relevant to a determination of whether or not Respondent has been able to build up legitimate rights in the domain name in the interim and whether or not Respondent was using the domain name in bad faith.

Ultimately, the Panel DENIED the request for transfer of the domains.

Two Mattress Companies In Pillow Fight Over Domain

Friday, April 2nd, 2010

   Print

In the recent cybersquatting case of National Bedding Company L.L.C. v. Back To Bed, Inc. (WIPO D2010-0106, March 24, 2010), a single member Panel was faced with a dispute over the domain www.americasmatresses.com. Complainant sells mattresses using the service mark AMERICA’S MATTRESS. It maintains a web site at www.americasmattress.com. Complainant has two registered marks relating to mattresses. The Respondent operates a number of mattress stores, also in the state of Illinois. Respondent failed to respond to the dispute. Respondent maintains a web site at www.backtobed.com. The disputed domain name was first registered in 2004.

Paragraph 4(a) of the ICANN UDRP Policy requires that the complainant prove each of the following three elements to obtain a decision that a domain name should be either cancelled or transferred: (i) The domain name registered by the respondent is identical or confusingly similar to a trademark or service mark in which the complainant has rights; and (ii) The respondent has no rights or legitimate interests with respect to the domain name; and (iii) The domain name has been registered and is being used in bad faith.

In addressing the first element, the Panel found that “the disputed domain name, which is merely the plural form of the Complainant’s mark, unquestionably is confusingly similar to the mark.”

The Panel next addressed whether Respondent had any rights or legitimate interests in the domain, and recognized that although there was no response by the Respondent, the Panel chose to review the facts.

The Panel is not persuaded from the record of this case that the Respondent registered and has used the disputed domain name based on a good faith belief that the disputed domain name’s value was attributable to its generic or descriptive characteristics. It can scarcely be gainsaid from the record that the Respondent was unaware of the Complainant’s prior use of the AMERICA’S MATTRESS mark, given that the Complainant and the Respondent compete directly with each other in the Chicago, Illinois area and over the Internet. To the contrary, the Panel concludes that the Respondent most likely registered the disputed domain name in order to trade on the initial interest confusion between the domain name and the Complainant’s mark, intending to attract Internet users to the Respondent’s website. This does not constitute use of the disputed domain name in connection with a bona fide offering of goods or services within the meaning of paragraph 4(c)(i) of the Policy.

Regarding the final element, the Panel relied on its prior conclusions regarding that Respondent must have known of Complainant due to the geographic proximity. The Panel found that Respondent “intentionally attract[ed] Internet users to its website for commercial gain, by creating a likelihood of confusion with the Complainant’s mark as to source, sponsorship or affiliation.”

Ultimately, the Panel found that Complainant satisfied all three elements, and ordered the domain be TRANSFERRED.

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