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Posts Tagged ‘Reverse Domain Name Hijacking’

Panel tells Alcohol Monitoring Systems to SCRAM

Thursday, April 18th, 2013

In a recent domain name dispute over the domain www.SCRAM.com a single member panel denied a request to transfer. See Alcohol Monitoring Systems, Inc.v. Peter Stranney (Nat. Arb. Forum FA 1488482, April 11, 2013). Complainant, offering continuous alcohol monitoring systems and operates a domain located at www.alcoholmonitoring.com. Complainant is the owner of the trademark SCRAM with rights dating back to at least 2003. Complainant alleges that the disputed domain is not functioning site is a sample word press site which is not active and is not used as a commercial website only as a placeholder. Complainant also noted that the respondent offered to sell the domain for approximately $40,000 pursuant to an invitation to sell the domain name. The Respondent provided a defense and response to the allegations noting that the disputed domain name incorporates a generic term and therefore is not exclusive to the trademark holder. The Panel found that the respondent is the sole owner of a business located in the UK. The Respondent also has experience in web development and online marketing and acquired the domain in January 2007 for approximately $6000. The Panel found that Respondent indicated an intention to focus the disputed domain on development for a traveling business to be launched in approximately August or September 2013

Paragraph 4(a) of the ICANN UDRP Policy requires that 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 Respondent is identical or confusingly similar to a trademark or service mark in which Complainant has rights; and (2)  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.

In addressing the first element, the panel noted that the respondent did not oppose complainants claim to its trademark rights. The panel explained that complainant only valid registered trademark and that it was identical or confusingly similar to the demeaning. Therefore the panel found that this factor have been met by complainant.

Regarding the second element rights or legitimate interests, the panel found the complainant made a prima facie case the respondent lack rights religion interest in the domain name. If you’ve the evidence however the Panel found that respondent met the shifted burden and demonstrated that he did have rights or legitimate interests in the domain name under the policy section 4(a)(ii) and 4(c). The Panel noted that prior to any notification of the dispute that the Respondent made preparations to use the domain name in connection with a bona fide offering of goods or services. Respondent’s materials revealed that he developed a business plan for the opportunity to advertise goods and services for people wishing to travel to particular destinations within the UK. The business plan provided details regarding Respondent’s preparation of the domain with that purpose. For those reasons the Panel found the Complainants second prong allegations failed.

Despite the fact that Complainant failed to meet the second prong the Panel still chose to review the third prong of elements regarding registration in use in bad faith. The Panel noted that “scram” is a generic term and that transferring such a generic term for value is not bad faith unless the registration was undertaken with the intent of selling it to a Complainant or its competitor. The Panel noted that generic domain names possess intrinsic value that for all intents and purposes exceed the cost of registration. For those reasons the Panel noted that scram as a generic term has intrinsic value that can go beyond on the cost of registration. Accordingly the Panel found the Complainant failed to satisfy the sprung as well.

The Panel also reviewed an allegation of the first domain name hijacking but found that there was no evidence of reversed meaning hijacking in this instant case. The Panel noted there was no evidence of harassment or similar conduct by Complainant in lieu of knowledge of Respondents rights or legitimate interests.

As a result, the Panel denied Complainant’s request to transfer the disputed domain.

SHA Wellness Clinic Foolishly Attempts to use the UDRP

Friday, August 3rd, 2012

In a recent domain name dispute over the domain, www.sha.com, a three member Panel not only  denied a request to transfer but slammed the Complainant for improperly bringing the dispute in the first place. See Albir Hills Resort, S.A. v. Telepathy, Inc. WIPO Case No. D2012-0997, August 3, 2012). Complainant Albir Hills Resort, S.A. owns a few Community Trademarks and an International Trademark for the mark SHA relating to a host of different goods and services. Complainant owns the domains www.shawellnessclinic.es and www.shawellnessclinic.com.The disputed domain was registered on August 7, 1998. Respondent, Telepathy, Inc., owns over 3,000 three letter dot com domain names.

Paragraph 4(a) of the ICANN UDRP Policy requires that 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 Respondent is identical or confusingly similar to a trademark or service mark in which Complainant has rights; and (2)  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.

In addressing the first element the Panel noted that Complaint had a valid trademark for SHA and that the domain name was identical under Policy paragraph 4(a)(i). Trhe crux of the case was focused on the remainder of the elements.

The Panel’s discussion of the second element began with a review of some relevant UDRP precedent.

It is also well established that a respondent may well have a right to register and use a domain name to attract Internet traffic based solely on the appeal of a commonly used descriptive phrase, even where the domain name is confusingly similar to the registered mark of a complainant, provided that the domain name was registered because of its attraction as a descriptive phrase comprising dictionary words and not because of its value as a trademark and further provided that the website to which the domain name resolves is then used to post links that are relevant only to the common meaning of the phrase comprising dictionary words.

The Panel noted that the disputed domain was registered in 1998, which was many years prior to the existence of Complainant’s company and trademark rights. Further it noted there was no evidence that Respondent had any intention to target Complainant or its Mark. As a result, the Panel found that Respondent in fact had a right or legitimate interest in the domain.

Moving to the final element, the Panel continued with the factual analysis, again noting the disparity between Respondent’s domain registration and Complainant’s rights. Specifically, the Panel noted that  Complainant’s mark SHA was filed for in 2006 and the Complainant has not submitted evidence of prior use of its trademark. The Panel took it a step further though, noting that since it was a three letter domain, the result of multiple acronym uses for SHA yielded possibilities such as “Secure Hash Algorithm”, the “Saskatchewan Hockey Association” and the “Society for Historical Archaeology”. Ultimately, the Panel settled on the fact that there was no evidence to establish that Respondent tried to generate confusion with Complainant’s mark and found this factor favored Respondent.

The Panel was not finished yet, since it then turned its attention to the Reverse Domain Name Hijacking claim.

In the case at hand, the registration date of the disputed domain name precedes the dates of the Complainants’ relevant trademark registrations and the evidence shows that the disputed domain name has been used as part of a bona fide business of the Respondent, which owns over 1000 three-letter-domains in its domain name portfolio. The Panel considers that the Complainant is represented by an attorney who should have appreciated that the Complaint could not succeed in the present proceeding since the disputed domain name was registered by the Respondent eight years prior to filing the trademark applications for SHA. Moreover, the Complainant’s representative has misconceived the nature and the purpose of the Policy according to which the Complaint was brought.

The Panel found Complainant’s assertion of 15 years of market presence to be misleading since the evidence instead pointed to the fact that Complainant opened in 2008 and the mark SHA was not even filed until 2006.

As a result, the Panel DENIED Complaint’s request to get the disputed domain. The Panel additionally found that Complainant engaged in reverse domain name hijacking.

AirFX, LLC is Free-Falling Without a Parachute

Monday, September 19th, 2011

Although we at DefendMyDomain often blog about UDRP domain name decisions. Sometimes, those decisions go another level higher, into the U.S. federal courts. Under action 15 U.S.C. § 1114(D)(v) a domain name registrant can file a civil action asking the Federal Courts to resolve the dispute. This is sometimes referred to as a reverse domain name hijacking case, depending on the specifics of the case. The prior domain name dispute decision AirFX, LLC v. ATTN AIRFX.COM ( Nat. Arb. Forum FA1384655, May 16, 2011)(available here), was decided by a single member Panel. The Complainant convinced the single member Panel that the elements of the UDRP policy had been met. We are not going to spend time rehashing the elements of that decision, because once the dispute is brought in Federal Court, the UDRP decision is essentially irrelevant. This is an important lesson for those who seek to use the UDRP system. 15 U.S.C. § 1114(D)(v) allows an aggrieved party to seek binding federal court intervention.

Marc J. Randazza, of The Randazza Legal Group, filed the complaint on behalf of the Respondent, which follows well established pleading standards and requirements for these types of actions. (available here) However, the Complainant/Defendant AirFX, LLC, has filed a motion to dismiss, alleging among other things a 12(b)(6) allegation, and other unbelievable theories and accusations. (available here). Among the odd and interesting accusations by AirFX, LLC, they complain that the respondent/plaintiff for the first time is alleging reverse domain name hijacking. This is a misunderstanding of cause of action permitted under 15 U.S.C. § 1114(D)(v). Additionally since the decision at the UDRP level has absolutely no precedential or binding effect, this concept is misplaced. A reverse domain name highjacking claim is one which is permissible in order to prove that the domain name registrants registration was not unlawful.

AirFXS also complains about the location, namely Arizona District Court, in which the case was filed. One of the things that is clear, is when you file a UDRP, you affirmatively select and agree to one of two jurisdictions for a Federal Court challenge. (1) the location of the principal office of the concerned registrar or or (2) where the Respondent is located, as shown by the address(es) given for the domain name holder in the Whois Database at the time of the submission of the Complaint. See UDRP Rule 3(b)(xiii). AirFX asks the Court to transfer the case to another district, namely the Southern District of Indiana. This concept is dead on arrival though, since AirFX was the one demanded the jurisdiction for the resolution of all disputes thus waived any challenge to the jurisdiction.

Essentially, the Motion to Dismiss provides no controlling authority of any kind in the dismissal section. When parties seek to take domains to which they are not entitled, the arguments are often weak. We have seen the Randazza Legal Group in action before and know that AirFX will have their work cut out for them.

We will continue to monitor this case and provide updates. We thought it was an important lesson to provide our readers with an understanding of which arguments should not be raised when defending a reverse domain name highjacking case under 15 U.S.C. § 1114(D)(v).

Grab Your Popcorn…Cinema Drama Unfolds

Monday, February 14th, 2011

In the recent domain name dispute of Prime Pictures LLC v. DigiMedia.com L.P. (WIPO Case No. D2010-1877, February 2, 2011) a three member panel was faced with a dispute over the domain www.cinemacity.com. Complainant uses the mark CINEMACITY throughout Lebanon, UAE, Jordan and Syria for movie theaters. Complainant claims rights to a Lebanese registered trademark from 2006. However, as there is some dispute over the facts presented by Complainant , in that there appears to be multiple companies that are related as presented by Complainant. The Panel noted that Complainant failed to adequately identify how these companies are related. Respondent registered the disputed domain on September 24, 1998 and has used the website as a parked page since that time.

 In accordance with paragraph 4(a) of the ICANN UDRP Policy, in order to succeed in this proceeding, the Complainant must prove (i) that the Domain Name is identical or confusingly similar to a mark in which it has rights; (ii) that the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the Domain Name; and (iii) that the Domain Name has been registered and is being used in bad faith.

The Panel noted that there are serious questions regarding the first element. As noted above, there were multiple companies referred to in Complainants filing. As a result, the Panel explained “More seriously there is no evidence at all that any of these companies is connected with the Complainant, Prime Pictures LLC, or that Prime Pictures LLC has any right in this mark on any other basis.” The Panel chose not to seek additional proof or information from Complainant in light of its findings under the other prongs.

The Panel then reviewed the second element, and found that Respondent did not have any rights or legitimate interests in the domain. However, as many of you know, all three of the elements must be found in favor of the Complainant. In moving onto the third element, the Panel made the following findings:

In this case the Complaint contains no evidence of any use of “Cinema City” as a mark or company name prior to September 2005. The Domain Name was registered by the Respondent in September 1998. There is no evidence whatsoever that the Domain Name was registered in bad faith. The third requirement of the UDRP has not been satisfied and the Complaint must therefore be rejected.

Normally the Panels stop their analysis at this point, making findings for Respondent. However, in this case the Respondent claimed Reverse Domain Name Hijacking. Panels have ben very reluctant to make such a finding. This Panel made the following findings:

In the present case, the Complaint correctly identified that the Domain Name was registered in 1998. Given that the earliest date of any registration or use of the mark relied upon in the Complaint was in 2005, the registration of the Domain Name could not have been in bad faith on any interpretation of the facts and cases cited in the Complaint….the Panel considers it unlikely that this deficiency was overlooked by the Complainant’s counsel and more probable that it was deliberately ignored in framing the Complaint. In all the circumstances, the Panel finds that the Complaint was brought in bad faith, in an attempt at Reverse Domain Name Hijacking.

Ultimately, the Panel DENIED the request for transfer and made a finding that Complainant engaged in Reverse Domain Name Hijacking.

3D Glasses Not Needed In UDRP Loss

Monday, December 6th, 2010

In the recent UDRP case of X6D Limited v. Telepathy, Inc. (WIPO Case No. D2010-1519, November 16, 2010) a three member Panel was faced with a dispute over the domain www.xpand.com. Complainant is a supplier of 3D solutions for movie theaters and home use and maintains a website at www.xpandcinema.com. Complainant owns a trademark registration for the mark XPAND BEYOND CINEMA and has pending applications for the single word mark XPAND. The disputed domain was registered on June 25, 2003, which was 3 years prior to the alleged date of first use of the marks by Complainant.

Under paragraph 4(a) of the Policy, the Complainant must prove that each of the following three elements is present: (i) the disputed domain name is identical or confusingly similar to the Complainant’s trademark; and (ii) the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the disputed domain name; and (iii) the disputed domain name has been registered and is being used in bad faith.

The Panel found that Complainant established the first prong, since the essence of the registred mark was incorporated into the domain. In addressing the second prong the Panel noted that Respondent alleged the domain was generic or at least descriptive. The Panel found that the word “xpand” was descriptive as a short hand for the word “expand.” The Panel recognized the commercial value of descriptive words, which when such domains are offered for sale can be considered a bona fide offering of goods or services.

The case ultimately seemed to weigh heavily on the third prong, wherein the Panel explained:

The Respondent acquired the disputed domain name in 2003. The Complainant did not use the XpanD Mark until September 2006, more than three years after the Respondent registered the disputed domain name. The Complainant did not provide any explanation as to how the Respondent could possibly have been aware of the Complainant and the Complainant’s mark when registering the disputed domain name.

After making a finding that Complainant failed to prove all three elements, the Panel moved its attention to Respondent’s request for a finding of Reverse Domain Name Hijacking. The Panel explained:

In the present case, the Complainant did not provide any explanation as to how the Respondent could possibly have been aware of the Complainant and the Complainant’s mark when registering the disputed domain name, which occurred more than three years before the Complainant started using its XpanD Mark. The Panel therefore accepts the Respondent’s allegation that the Complainant is using the UDRP as an alternative purchase strategy after the acquisition of the disputed domain name failed. Therefore, the Panel finds that the Complaint was brought in bad faith, in an attempt of reverse domain name hijacking: The Complainant knew or should have known at the time it filed the Complaint that it could not prove that the domain name was registered in bad faith.

Ultimately the Panel DENIED the request for Transfer.

ENERGYFIX Needs A Fix After Ruling of Reverse Domain Name Hijacking

Monday, October 25th, 2010

In the recent domain name dispute of Suzannah R. Noonan v. Kevin Sneed FA1343308 (Nat. Arb. Forum October 22, 2010) a single member panel was faced with a domain name dispute over the domain www.energyfix.com. Complainant claims ownership to the mark ENEGRYFIX, which was registered on July 24, 2001, filed on April 27, 2000 and bears an alleged first use date of April 1, 2000. The disputed domain was registered by Respondent on August 24, 1999, approximately seven month prior to Complainant’s first use of the mark. Respondent contended and provided supporting evidence that he began selling “superfood” products via the disputed domain name on November 28, 1999.

Paragraph 4(a) of the ICANN UDRP 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 reviewed the elements and found that the domain was confusingly similar to Complainant’s mark. In addressing the second element the Panel made the following observations:

Under Policy ¶ 4(c)(i), use of a domain name in connection with a bona fide offering of goods is sufficient to establish rights or legitimate interests in the domain name for purposes of ¶ 4(a)(ii).  Respondent operated an online store using the disputed domain name for at least eight and a half years, beginning four months prior to Complainant’s first use of the ENERGYFIX mark and twenty-one months prior to the registration of that mark.  By doing so, Respondent established his rights and legitimate interest in the disputed domain name.

In addressing the third element, bad faith, the Panel continued its observations that no bad faith could have existed in light of the earlier registration of the domain compared with the first use of the mark.

The case became interesting with the Panel’s discussion regarding Reverse Domain Name Hijacking. The Panel noted:

The Panel is troubled by Complainant’s attempt to secure <energyfix.com>, a domain name that was registered and used to sell goods for months before Complainant’s first use of the ENERGYFIX mark.  A simple WHOIS search would have informed Complainant that the disputed domain name had been registered seven months before her first use of the ENERGYFIX mark and therefore could not have been registered in bad faith.  It is also evident from the Complaint that Complainant was aware that Respondent was selling goods using the disputed domain name, one of the activities that gives rise to rights and legitimate interests in a domain name….A long delay in filing a complaint can also give rise to an inference that a complainant with a flawed claim knew that it had a flawed claim, providing further support for a finding of bad faith.

Ultimately, the Panel found that Complainant failed to prove the elements and made a finding that Complainant engaged in Reverse Domain Name Hijacking.

FORD Has A FIESTA With Domain Names

Thursday, October 21st, 2010

  

In the recent cybersquatting case of Ford Motor Company v. Boomerang Enterprises Inc., FA1344311 (Nat. Arb. Forum October 20, 2010) a single member Panel was faced with a dispute over the domains www.fiesta-armrest.com, www.fiesta-armrest.net, www.fiestaarmrest.com, www.fiestaarmrest.net, and www.fordfiestaarmrest.com. Ford is the well known longstanding car company which needs no introduction. Ford maintains a website at www.ford.com. Ford owns numerous trademark registrations for its FIESTA vehicle. Respondent is an official Ford approved vendor. Respondent claims that it registered and developed the domain names with Ford’s approval and encouragement. As a result Respondent sought to have this dispute not handled under the UDRP, noting that it was contractual and fell outside the purview of the UDRP. The Panel reviewed the information and disagreed with Respondent position regarding the coverage of the UDRP on the facts at issue.

Complainant claims that it has established the elements outlined by the UDRP, and that Respondent’s arguments about Complainant and Respondent’s relationship do not provide sufficient reason for the Panel not to decide the case. Complainant and Respondent have provided sufficient evidence for the Panel to properly decide the dispute under the UDRP, the Panel may thus proceed with the case and consider the contentions of Complainant and Respondent.

Paragraph 4(a) of the ICANN UDRP Policy requires that 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 Respondent is identical or confusingly similar to a trademark or service mark in which Complainant has rights; and (2) 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 reviewed and applied the elements finding that Complaint satisfied all three. Of interesting note, the Panel reviews the concept of disclaimers in avoiding bad faith.

Complainant argues that a disclaimer posted on a website is too late to avoid confusion among Internet users. Complainant claims that Internet users are misdirected to Respondent’s website before seeing the disclaimer.  Therefore, Complainant contends that Respondent’s disclaimer does not mitigate Respondent’s bad faith registration and use of the disputed domain names. In view of the circumstances of the present case, the Panel finds accordingly that the disclaimer posted on Respondent’s website by Respondent is insufficient to prevent a finding of bad faith under Policy ¶ 4(a)(iii) since it does not prevent initial confusion and may be disregarded by Internet users. See Continental Airlines, Inc. v. Vartanian, FA 1106528 (Nat. Arb. Forum Dec. 26, 2007) (“Respondent’s use of a disclaimer does note mitigate a finding of bad faith under Policy ¶ 4(a)(iii) “); see also Ciccone v. Parisi, D2000-0847 (WIPO Oct. 12, 2000) (“Respondent’s use of a disclaimer on its website is insufficient to avoid a finding of bad faith.  First, the disclaimer may be ignored or misunderstood by Internet users.  Second, a disclaimer does nothing to dispel initial interest confusion that is inevitable from Respondent’s actions.  Such confusion is a basis for finding a violation of Complainant’s rights.”).

Ultimately, the Panel was not swayed by arguments presented by Respondent. Respondent did seek a finding of Reverse Domain Name Hijacking, which the Panel also rejected. The domains were ordered to be TRANSFERRED.

PAM ANDERSON Gets Her Name

Friday, October 1st, 2010

        

In the recent cybersquatting case of Pamela Anderson v. Alberta Hot Rods Case No. D2010-1144 (WIPO September 8, 2010) a three member panel was faced with a dispute over the domain www.pamanderson.com. Pamela Anderson is well known for her acting and modeling. She has multiple trademark registration for the mark PAMELA ANDERSON. She maintains a website at www.pamelaanderson.com. Respondent registered the disputed domain on March 1, 1997 and filed a Response to the Complaint. The parties have been involved in an earlier UDRP proceeding concerning the domain names <pamelaanderson.com>, <pamelaanderson.net> and <pamelalee.com>, which resulted in the transfer of those domain names (see Pamela Anderson v. Alberta Hot Rods, WIPO Case No. D2002-1104).

Under paragraph 4(a) of the ICANN UDRP Policy, the Complainant must prove that each of the following three elements is present: (i) the disputed domain name is identical or confusingly similar to the Complainant’s trademark; and (ii) the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the disputed domain name; and (iii) the disputed domain name has been registered and is being used in bad faith.

In addressing the first element, the Panel explained that it must view Anderson’s rights in the mark based on common law, since the Federal trademark rights do not predate the registration of the domain. A discussion of common law rights extending to an abbreviation of Anderson’s first name from PAMELA to PAM, concluded in a finding that it could be found to be confusingly similar. The Panel was satisfied that the domain was confusingly similar to the mark.

Moving on to the second element, the Panel noted that Anderson claims the Respondent is not commonly known by the disputed domain and does not have authorization to use the domain or mark. The Panel noted the following arguments presented by Respondent:

The Respondent claims to have, as a respected publisher of a wealth of information, including biographical data, used the disputed domain name in connection with various websites in the past, all featuring biographical information about various famous personalities, dead or alive. However, the Respondent did not provide any evidence of any contemplated good faith use and therefore failed to prove rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name under the Policy.

The Panel found this element also favored Complainant. Moving onto the final element, bad faith registration and use, the Panel made the following observations regarding Respondent knowledge and actions.

Given the Complainant’s broad media coverage and the fact that the Respondent registered the disputed domain name in a chronological sequence with the domain names disputed in Pamela Anderson v. Alberta Hot Rods, supra, (<pamelaanderson.com> registered on November 6, 1996; <pamanderson.com> registered on March 1, 1997; <pamelalee.com> registered on March 27, 1997; <pamelaanderson.net> registered on February 25, 1998), it is inconceivable that the Respondent registered the disputed domain name without knowledge of the Complainant’s rights. This finding is further supported by the fact that the Complainant seems drawn towards registering well-known people’s names as domain names and therefore seems to be familiar with or at least interested in celebrities. The Panel is therefore satisfied that the Respondent registered the disputed domain name in bad faith under paragraph 4(a)(iii) of the Policy.

The Panel also applied the consensus view regarding lack of active use of a domain, and explained “In the view of the Panel, the facts of this case do not allow for any plausible actual or contemplated active use of the disputed domain name by the Respondent in good faith. The Panel is therefore convinced that, even though the disputed domain name has not yet been actively used, the Respondent’s non-use of the disputed domain name amounts to use in bad faith.”

Ultimately, the Panel found that all elements were satisfied and ordered the domain be Transferred. This decision was not unanimous though as one of the Panelists provided a dissenting opinion. Additionally, The Panel dismissed the request for Reverse Domain Name Highjacking presented by Respondent.

MY HEALTH Unable To Find The Right Prescription For Success

Monday, August 30th, 2010

        

In the recent domain name dispute decision My Health, Inc. v. Top Tier Consulting, Inc. FA1332064 (Nat. Arb. Forum August 26, 2010) a single member Panel was faced with a dispute over the domain www.myhealth.com. Complainant is owns a trademark for MY HEALTH, related to, among other things, a website for medical professionals. Additionally, Complainant maintains a website at www.myhealthincorporated.com. Respondent filed a Response to the dispute, contending it registered the domain prior to the Complainant ever being in business.

Paragraph 4(a) of the ICANN UDRP 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.

 Both parties made objections to the level of authenticity of documents required, but the Panel explained as follows: “The Panel reminds the parties of UDRP Policy Rules ¶¶ 3(b)(xv), 5(b)(ix), and 10(d), which in sum direct all parties to submit their complete evidence and that the Panel ‘shall determine the admissibility, relevance, materiality and weight of the evidence.’”

Moving onto the substance of the dispute, the Panel quickly found that the disputed domain was identical or confusingly similar to Complainant’s mark under Policy ¶ 4(a)(i). In addressing the next prong, whether the Respondent had any rights or legitimate interests in the domain, the Panel explained that Complainant made its prima facie case. The Panel found that “Respondent’s failure to make an active use of the disputed domain name for the last three years is evidence that Respondent lacks rights and legitimate interests in the disputed domain name as Respondent is not using the disputed domain name for either a bona fide offering of goods and services pursuant to Policy ¶ 4(c)(i) or a legitimate noncommercial or fair use pursuant to Policy ¶ 4(c)(iii).” The Panel also noted that the burden then shifted to Respondent to prove otherwise.

The Panel then detailed Respondents assertions about its preparations for the website as follows:

Respondent argues that it has made efforts to seek funding for its medical website and has thus demonstrated use and preparations to use the disputed domain name in connection with a bona fide offering of goods or services, namely personal healthcare and related services.  Respondent asserts that its goal has been to use the disputed domain name for a consumer healthcare portal website to put healthcare in the hands of patients and doctors, where appointments with doctors can be made, prior visits confirmed, physician consults made online, and informed decisions made when searching for a new physician.  Respondent further asserts that it has conducted a number of meetings to develop the website by either financing or joint ventures. 

Interestingly, the Panel agreed and found that these preparations were a bona fide offering of goods or services. The Panel moved onto the final prong, bad faith, and explained that there was no evidence presented by Complainant of any bad faith purchase or use of the disputed domain.

Respondent asserts, correctly, that there is no evidence that Respondent has either registered or used the domain name in bad faith as Respondent registered the disputed domain name more than fourteen months before Complainant or its MY HEALTH mark even existed.  Respondent indicates that it purchased the <myhealth.com> domain name in early February 2007 for $150,000.   Respondent further contends that this was long before Complainant’s first use of the MY HEALTH mark in mid-April 2008.  The Panel finds that Respondent’s purchase and registration of the disputed domain name nearly fourteen months before Complainant’s first use of its mark in commerce is evidence that Respondent has not engaged in bad faith registration as defined in the Policy.

The Panel, on its own noted that it could be determined that this was a case of reverse domain name hijacking, but since it was not raised nor briefed by either party it would not make such a finding. Ultimately, the Panel found that Complainant failed to establish all the elements and DENIED the request for transfer.

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.

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