Panelist Troubled By Citizen Hawk For Filing Careless Complaint

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.

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