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UDRP tip: put your domain in the Whois

Kevin Murphy, January 25, 2011, Domain Policy

If you’re fighting off a bogus UDRP complaint on one of your domain names, the onus is on you to prove that you have “rights and legitimate interests” in the domain.

That could be tricky, especially if you think you may been assigned a panelist with a pro-complainant bent, but there may be some ways to mitigate the risk of losing your domain.

Take this recent case, for example: PissedConsumer.com versus ThePissedOffConsumer.com.

The panelist determined that the registrant of ThePissedOffConsumer.com had no “rights and legitimate interests”on the grounds that a) it was competing with the complainant, b) the web site used the same color (red) as the complainant and c) the registrant was not known by the domain.

Ignoring the first two (highly debatable) findings, let’s look at c). The panelist wrote:

Complainant alleges that Respondent has never used a company name “The Pissed-Off Consumer” in connection with operation of any business activities. The WHOIS information for the disputed domain name lists the registrant of the domain as “John Cross.”

The Panel finds, based on the evidence in the record, that Respondent is not commonly known by the disputed domain name, and as such lacks rights and legitimate interests in the said name

In other words, because Whois showed the name of the registrant, rather than the name of the domain, the registrant was not “commonly known” as the domain and lacked rights.

To add insult to injury, the complainant was assumed to have earned the right to the mark “Pissed Consumer” before it had officially acquired a trademark (and before the disputed domain was registered) simply by virtue of operating PissedConsumer.com, despite the fact that it hides behind Whois privacy and is called Consumer Opinion Corp.

Presumably, if Cross had simply added the text “ThePissedOffConsumer” to his Whois record, the panelist would have had one less data point “in the record” to justify his finding.

In fringe UDRP cases, that could prove a useful defensive tactic.

World of Warcraft player ganks UDRP complainant

Kevin Murphy, August 17, 2010, Domain Policy

An aviation safety consulting firm has lost its UDRP case against a gamer who used its company name for his World of Warcraft guild.

Wyvern Consulting went after wyvern.com, which was registered by its current owner back in 2005.

The registrant said he’d originally registered the name for a possible business venture, which fell through, and then decided to use it for his WoW guild instead.

The National Arbitration Forum panelist found that while Wyvern proved the name was confusingly similar to its common law trademark, and that the registrant lacked legitimate interests in the domain, it had failed to prove bad faith.

Complainant does not have a registered trademark, and offers no proof of consumer confusion or loss of business. Respondent’s proof of its current use is minimal, but the burden is upon Complainant on this issue. Respondent’s use of the disputed domain name as a forum and e-mail service for its World of Warcraft guild does not establish that Respondent registered and used the disputed domain name in bad faith

The domain in question currently appears to be unused, although archive.org shows a WoW guild page back in 2008.

Massive BackCountry.com UDRP case ignores rude typos

Kevin Murphy, August 2, 2010, Domain Policy

Amusingly, a huge 41-domain typosquatting UDRP case just filed by BackCountry.com contains none of the obvious, profane typos.

The claim, apparently filed by an outdoor equipment retailer, covers typos such as backxountry.com, backcountru.com and even backc9untry.com.

It does not include the typo that first occurred to me. You know the one I mean.

That domain exists, and is currently parked with suggestive, adult-oriented ad links.

In fact, none of the 41 domains listed in the National Arbitration Forum claim contain the particular four-letter Shakespearean pun that I’m thinking of.

Using Go Daddy equals “bad faith” registration

Registered a domain name with Go Daddy recently? Unless you’ve updated your name server settings, you’ve automatically committed a “bad faith” registration.

At least, that’s the conclusion I’m drawing from a couple of recent clueless UDRP decisions.

The most recent example is the case of Churchill Insurance, which just won churchillimports.com, following a proceeding with the National Arbitration Forum.

The registrant claimed he planned to use the domain, which he registered just six months ago, to sell cigars. Seems reasonable. Other sites sell cigars using the name “Churchill”.

But the NAF panelist, Flip Petillion, wasn’t buying it:

Respondent uses the churchillimports.com domain name to resolve to a directory website that displays links to third-party websites, some of which provide insurance products and services that compete with Complainant’s business.

it is shown on a balance of probability that Respondent uses the disputed domain name to operate a directory website and, thus, profits from this use through the receipt of “click-through” fees. Accordingly, the Panel finds that this use constitutes bad faith registration and use pursuant to Policy

as the disputed domain name was registered after the registration of Complainant’s established trademark rights and given the fact that Respondent’s website employs insurance themed links that resolve to websites of Complainant’s competitors, Respondent could not have registered and used the disputed domain name without actual or constructive knowledge of Complainant and its rights in the CHURCHILL mark.

What Petillion clearly failed to realize – or decided to conveniently ignore – is that everything he ascribes to the registrant was actually caused by default Go Daddy behavior.

Churchill sells car insurance in the UK. The registrant is an American, from Georgia. There’s a very slim chance he’d ever heard of the company before they slapped him with the UDRP.

But Petillion decided that the fact that insurance-themed links were present on the site shows that the registrant must have known about the company. Like he put the links there himself.

He concludes the registrant had “bad faith” because Go Daddy’s parking algorithm (I believe it’s operated by Google) knows to show insurance-related ads when people search for “churchill”.

In addition, churchillimports.com is the default parking page that Go Daddy throws up whenever a domain name is newly registered.

The registrant didn’t need to do anything other than register the name and, according to this bogus ruling, he’s automatically committed a bad faith registration.

Where does NAF find these people?

I’m sure I’m not the first to notice this kind of behavior, and I’m sure Go Daddy’s not the only registrar this affects.

Mail-order wife site silences critic with UDRP

Kevin Murphy, May 18, 2010, Domain Policy

A dating service has failed in a second attempt to hijack a domain name on the basis that the corresponding web site uses its “hot Russian brides” trademark in its directory structure.

Romantic Tours, which runs hotrussianbrides.com, filed a UDRP claim against agencyscams.com, claiming its URL agencyscams.com/why/hotrussianbrides infringed its trademark.

It lost the case, with the National Arbitration Forum arbitrator quite reasonably noting that “proceedings under the UDRP may be applied only to domain names”.

As noted over at Domain Name Wire, Romantic Tours tried the same ballsy tactic with jimslists.com, and was similarly unsuccessful.

Jimslists.com and and agencyscams.com are run by the same person. They’re basically gripe sites naming and shaming allegedly dodgy dating agencies and the allegedly dodgy women who use them.

While Romantic Tours may have lost its UDRP case, it appears to have got what it wanted anyway.

The offending URLs are no longer active on either site, and detailed references to hotrussianbrides.com appear to have been yanked, resulting in 404s.