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RBS wins totally bogus UDRP complaint

Kevin Murphy, June 28, 2010, Domain Policy

The Royal Bank of Scotland has been handled control of the domain rbscout.com in a UDRP decision I have no trouble at all describing as utterly bogus.

RBS, naturally enough, owns a trademark on the term “RBS”. Its UDRP claim is based on the notion that a domain beginning with “rbs” is therefore confusingly similar.

For this to work, logically, the meaning of “rbscout” must be taken as “RBS cout”.

Cout?

The idea that the registrant actually had “RB scout” in mind does not appear to entered into the deliberation of the National Arbitration Forum panelist, Paul Dorf.

It took me all of two minutes with Whois and Google to determine that the registrant, The Auction Scout, is a player in the market for auctioning heavy machinery, and that RB, Ritchie Bros., is such an auctioneer.

There’s simply no way the registrant could have had RBS in mind when he registered the domain back in February.

So why did Dorf find evidence of bad faith?

Because the domain rbscout.com resolves to a default Go Daddy parking page, which displays advertising links to financial services sites including RBS’s own site.

So, just because Go Daddy’s algorithms are confused by the string “rbs” appearing in a domain, human beings would be similarly confused?

It defies common sense. Dorf should be ashamed of himself.

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.

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.

Cheaters’ dating site wins 101 typo domains

Kevin Murphy, May 17, 2010, Domain Policy

You’d think a web site that enables married people to cheat on their partners would have difficulty taking the moral high ground on any issue. Apparently not.

AshleyMadison.com, which offers an “Affairs Guaranteed” promise, has just won 101 typo domain names under a mass UDRP claim against a single respondent.

The disputed domains included everything from zashleymadison.com to aeshleymadison.com. Two were PPC pages, the remainder apparently remained unused.

Judging from the National Arbitration Forum decision, this was an open-and-shut case of typosquatting.

The registrant was hiding behind a Bahamas-based privacy service that declined to close his true identity.

He did not respond to the UDRP filing.

Registrars responsible for proxy cybersquatters

Domain name registrars can be liable when their customers break the law, if those customers use a privacy service, according to new ICANN guidance.

The ICANN advisory clarifies the most recent Registrar Accreditation Agreement, and seems primarily pertinent to UDRP cases where the registrar refuses to cooperate with the arbitrator’s request for proper Whois records.

The advisory says:

a Registered Name Holder licensing the use of a domain is liable for harm caused by the wrongful use of the domain unless the Registered Name Holder promptly identifies the licensee to a party providing the Registered Name Holder with reasonable evidence of actionable harm

In other words, if a domain gets hit with a UDRP claim or trademark infringement lawsuit, as far as the RAA is concerned the proxy service is the legal registrant unless the registrar quickly hands over its customer’s details.

Law enforcement and intellectual property interests have been complaining about registrars refusing to do so for years, most recently in comments on ICANN’s Whois accuracy study.

ICANN offers a definition of the word “promptly” as “within five business days” and “reasonable evidence” as trademark ownership and evidence of infringement.

I don’t think this ICANN guidance will have much of an impact on privacy services offered by the big registrars, which generally seem quite happy to hand over customer identities on demand.

Instead, this looks like it could be the start of a broader ICANN crackdown on certain non-US registrars offering “bulletproof” registrations to cybersquatters and other ne’er-do-wells.

I wouldn’t be surprised to find the number of ICANN de-accreditations citing refusal to cooperate with UDRP claims increasing in future.

The new ICANN document is a draft, and you can comment on it here.

UDRP of the day: how-to-roll-a-blunt-with-a-swisher-sweet.info

Kevin Murphy, April 28, 2010, Domain Policy

This is mildly amusing. Somebody, presumably the cigar company, has filed a UDRP claim against the owner of how-to-roll-a-blunt-with-a-swisher-sweet.info.

The domain name was registered last month and, sadly, does not appear to have any content yet. It’s registered to “Gregory Bong”.

In the US, a “Swisher Sweet” is your basic bog-standard convenience store panatela cigar.

A “blunt” is what the registrant was probably smoking.

The .com version of the domain is, unsurprisingly, available, so I can only assume price was a big factor in Bong’s choice of TLD.

RapidShare chases cybersquatters

Kevin Murphy, April 19, 2010, Domain Policy

RapidShare, the popular German file-hosting site, has filed six cybersquatting claims against people with the word “rapidshare” in their domains.

The UDRP complaints are either a sign that RapidShare is cracking down on pirated content, or an example of balls-out intellectual property chutzpah.

My guess is it’s the latter, for two reasons.

First, a search reveals dozens of popular sites with “rapidshare” in the domain, all serving RapidShare links to copyrighted content, none of which have had UDRP claims filed against them.

Second, each of the six domains RapidShare has filed claims for seem to provide links only to files hosted by competing services such as Hotfile.com or Uploading.com.

RapidShare.com is currently the 35th most-popular site on the internet, more popular than Craigslist, according to Alexa.

A German court ruled two years ago that it had to start deleting pirate content, and it has been playing whack-a-mole with the bootleggers ever since.

Now, it wants the World Intellectual Property Organization to help it protect its trademark. There’s irony for you.

$10 billion disk-maker wins domain name

Kevin Murphy, April 16, 2010, Domain Policy

Seagate Technology, the world’s biggest hard disk drive maker, has won seagatetechnology.com – the exact match of its company name – at UDRP.

The squatter, identified as Standard Bearer Enterprises, registered the name in 2004. That’s six years of squeezing click revenue from an exact-match name of a multi-billion dollar firm.

Standard Bearer has a track record of losing famous names at UDRP, and was named in a cybersquatting lawsuit filed by Andre Agassi and Steffi Graff last year.

Seagate is a huge company, reporting revenue approaching $10 billion last year. It has been using the Seagate Technology trademark since 1983.

It’s not exactly naive about domain names, either.

Its primary domain, seagate.com, was first registered in 1992 – the Neolithic by internet standards. It beggars belief that its taken 18 years to secure its long-form company name.

WIPO’s UDRP market share lead narrows

Kevin Murphy, April 13, 2010, Domain Policy

The number of UDRP cases filed with the National Arbitration Forum dipped slightly last year, according to NAF numbers released today.

The organization said it received 1,759 filings last year, compared to 1,770 in 2008. Only 1,333 of the cases were actually heard; the others were dropped or settled.

While that’s a decline for NAF, it’s not quite as steep as the almost 10% drop experienced by rival arbitrator WIPO over the same period.

That said, WIPO is still the primary choice of companies trying to enforce their trademarks in the domain name system, saying last month that it received 2,107 complaints in 2009.

It was also the year of big multi-domain cases for both outfits.

WIPO handed 1,542 domains to Inter-Continental Hotels in a single case, while NAF transferred a relatively modest 1,017 domains to ConsumerInfo.com.

Richard Dawkins files UDRP claim for richarddawkins.com?

Kevin Murphy, April 8, 2010, Domain Policy

Biologist Richard Dawkins, perhaps the planet’s most famous and controversial atheist, has apparently filed a UDRP claim for richarddawkins.com.

The domain, which is down, is registered to a New Jersey address. For the last 10 years, up until at least a week ago, it has sold Dawkins’ books via Amazon’s affiliate program.

The UDRP case was filed with the National Arbitration Forum yesterday. The parties to the case are not yet listed.

Dawkins’ official web site is hosted at richarddawkins.net.

Interestingly, richarddawkins.org is owned by the loopy creationist group Access Research Network. ARN’s page incorrectly points visitors to richarddawkins.com if they want the “official” site.

Dawkins may have a struggle on his hands. Celebrity cybersquatting cases are rarely straightforward, and he may have trouble proving both trademark rights and bad faith.

Better knock on wood, Richard.