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Red Bull files UDRP after domain expires

Kevin Murphy, January 17, 2011, Domain Policy

Energy drink maker Red Bull has filed a UDRP complaint over the domain name red-bull.com, which until recently it actually owned.

It’s moderately embarrassing, but not unheard of, for companies to turn to the UDRP after domains they allow to expire are then snapped up by squatters.

What makes the complaint unusual is that the domain red-bull.com is not an obscure fringe case – it’s virtually identical to the company’s trademark and to its primary domain, redbull.com.

Also, according to Whois records, Red Bull also appears to use MarkMonitor, the brand-protection registrar, for its domain name needs.

Whois history shows that Red Bull acquired the domain in about 2005, but allowed it to expire in September 2010, after which it was quickly acquired by a third party.

Did Red Bull deliberately allow it to expire? There’s a case to be made for rationalizing defensive registration portfolios to reduce costs, but this domain would seem (to me) to be a definite keeper.

MarkMonitor has a policy of declining to comment on clients, which it chose to exercise when I inquired.

The domain red-bull.com currently resolves to what can only be described as a splog. It shows up on page two of Google for the search [red bull], which may go some way to explaining the UDRP.

Red Bull acquired red-bull.net, red-bull.cc and red-bull.tv via UDRP proceedings between 2001 and 2004, but has since allowed all three, as well as the .org, which it also owned, to expire.

The .tv and .net versions are currently parked, meaning they don’t rank so well in search engines.

It’s not the first odd UDRP Red Bull has filed. Last year, it lost a UDRP complaint despite winning a court case over the same domain name, as I reported in June.

Red Bull wins court case but loses UDRP

Kevin Murphy, June 8, 2010, Domain Policy

Energy drink maker Red Bull has somehow managed to lose a UDRP complaint over the domain name taurusrubens.com, despite having already won a lawsuit against its current registrant.

“Taurus Rubens” was the name of an air show slash performance art piece sponsored by Red Bull, performed at Salzburg airport in August 2003. There’s a clip here on YouTube.

The day before the show, an Austrian man named Reinhard Birnhuber registered taurusrubens.com and rubenstaurus.com and parked them with his ISP.

Two years later, when Red Bull got wise to the registrations, it offered Birnhuber €500 for them. He countered with a demand for a whopping €1 million.

That was in March 2005. One month later, Red Bull secured an Austrian trademark on the term “Taurus Rubens”. It then filed a UDRP complaint with WIPO.

Judging from that WIPO decision, it’s pretty clear that Birnhuber’s registrations were not entirely innocent.

Not only did he ask a ludicrous price for the domains, he also admitted to knowing about the air show when he registered them, he already owned redbullbag.com, and he gave a bunch of reasons about his plans for developing the domains that WIPO didn’t buy.

Nevertheless, because Red Bull had acquired its trademark rights years after the registrations, apparently just so it had standing under the UDRP rules, WIPO dismissed the complaint.

So Red Bull sued in an Austrian commercial court instead, and won.

Birnhuber appealed, and lost.

The court ruled that he had registered the domains in bad faith and that he should turn them over to Red Bull.

But he has apparently so far refused to do so. So Red Bull this year filed a second UDRP complaint with WIPO, asking for the domains to be transferred to it.

And, bizarrely, Red Bull lost.

WIPO this week denied the company’s complaint on the grounds that the the Austrian court’s ruling is irrelevant under UDRP rules, and that the 2005 WIPO decision should stand.

Here’s a Google translation of the relevant bits:

The panel can see in the above circumstances, no new facts or actions that would warrant a new assessment of the case. In this respect, the complainant fails to recognize that not only “new actions” to the resumption of proceedings are necessary, but this also has to be relevant.

The correct legal result is more than the enforcement of that ruling in Austria, especially as the present legal request (transfer of the domain name) covers with the sentencing order of the Austrian court. Since both parties are domiciled in Austria, is likely a priori, no specific enforcement problems arise. WIPO panels can so far do not replace the state authorities.

So, does Birnhuber get his €1 million? I doubt it. But right now he still owns taurusrubens.com.