What do Mark Zuckerberg, Oprah Winfrey, Donald Trump, Jeff Bezos and the Saudi royal family have in common?
Their .ceo domain names all belong to the same guy, a registrant from Trinidad and Tobago who as of last night was responsible for 40% of hand-registered .ceo domains.
Andrew Davis has registered roughly 100 of the roughly 250 .ceo names sold since the new gTLD went into general availability on March 28, spending at least $10,000 to do so.
I hesitate to call him a cyberquatter, but I have a feeling that multiple UDRP panels will soon be rather less hesitant.
Oh, what the hell: the dude’s a cyberquatter.
Here’s why I think so.
According to Whois records, Davis has registered dozens of common given and family names in .ceo — stuff like smith.ceo, patel.ceo, john.ceo, wang.ceo and wolfgang.ceo.
So far, that seems like fair game to me. There are enough CEOs with those names out there that to register matching domains in .ceo, or in any TLD, could easily be seen as honest speculation.
Then there are domains that start setting off alarm bells.
zuckerberg.ceo? zuck.ceo? oprah.ceo? trump.ceo? bezos.ceo?
Sure, those are names presumably shared by many people, but in the context of .ceo could they really refer to anyone other than Mark Zuckerberg, Oprah Winfrey, Donald Trump and Jeff Bezos?
I doubt it.
Then there are a class of names that seem to have been registered by Davis purely because they show up on lists of the world’s wealthiest families and individuals.
The domains slim.ceo, walton.ceo, and adelson.ceo match the last names of three of the top ten wealthiest people on the planet; arnault.ceo matches the name of France’s second-richest businessman.
getty.ceo, rockefeller.ceo, hearst.ceo, rothschild.ceo… all family names of American business royalty.
Then there’s the names of members of actual royalty, the magnificently wealthy Saudi royal family: alsaud.ceo, saud.ceo and alwaleed.ceo.
Still, if Davis had registered any single one of these names he could make a case that it was a good faith registration (if his name was Walton or Al Saud).
Collectively, the registration strategy looks very dodgy.
But where any chance of a good-faith defense falls apart is where Davis has registered the names of famous family-owned businesses where the name is also a well-defended trademark.
bacardi.ceo… prada.ceo… beretta.ceo… mars.ceo… sennheiser.ceo… shimano.ceo… swarovski.ceo… versace.ceo… ferrero.ceo… mahindra.ceo… olayan.ceo…
There’s very little chance of these surviving a UDRP if you ask me.
Overall, I estimate that at least half of Davis’ 100 registrations seem to deliberately target specific high net worth individuals or famous brands that are named after their company’s founder.
The remainder are generic enough that it’s difficult to guess what was going through his mind.
On his under construction web site at andrewdavis.ceo, Davis says:
I am the owner of Hundreds of the Best .CEO Domains available on the web.
My collection comprises of the Top Premium .CEO Domains (in my opinion).
My list of domains contains the First or Last names of well over 1 Billion people around the world.
I offer Email and Web Link Services on each of these sites, so that these Domains can be shared with many people around the world, particularly CEOs, Business Owners and Leaders, or those aspiring to become one.
On each of Davis’ .ceo sites, he offers to sell email addresses (eg email@example.com) for $10 a month and third-level domain names (eg blog.walton.ceo) for $5 a month.
A UDRP panelist is going to take this as evidence of bad faith, despite Davis’ disclaimer, which appears on each of his web sites. Here’s an example from bacardi.ceo:
This Website (Bacardi.CEO) is NOT Affiliated with, nor refers to, any Trademark or Company named “Bacardi”, that may or may not exist.
This Website does NOT refer to any Specific Individual Person(s) named “Bacardi”.
This Website aims to provide Services for ANY Person named “Bacardi”, particularly: CEOs, Business Owners and Leaders.
Bacardi.CEO is an Independent and Personal Project/Service of Andrew Davis.
I must admit I admire his entrepreneurship, but I fear he has stepped over the line into cybersquatting that a UDRP panelist will have no difficulty at all recognizing.
Davis has already been hit with a Uniform Rapid Suspension complaint on mittal.ceo, presumably filed on behalf of billionaire Indian steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal and/or his company ArcelorMittal.
It’s not clear from the name alone whether mittal.ceo is a losing domain under URS’ higher standard of evidence, but I reckon the pattern of registrations described in this blog post would help make for a pretty convincing case that would put it over the line.
I should add, in fairness to .ceo registry PeopleBrowsr, that the other 60% of its zone, judging by Whois records, looks pretty clean. Small, but clean.
The first controversial Uniform Rapid Suspension decision? Probably not.
An self-described “entrepreneur” from Texas has lost control of the domain dana.holdings after a URS complaint filed by Dana Holding, a vehicle component supplier. The domain has been suspended.
It’s the first URS case where the second-level string, in this case “dana”, has a hypothetical multitude of uses not related to the trademark holder’s brand.
The respondent, one Farris Nawas, said in his URS response:
Dana is a common Middle Eastern female name. My family is of Middle Eastern descent. My intention is to establish a holding company in my native country and not in the United States. Upon my registration of the domain name www.Dana.Holdings, I discovered that Dana Holdings is nationally registered in the United states. Out of Courtesy, I approached Dana Limited corporation myself to let them know that I have registered the domain name with the intention of starting my own holding company.
The National Arbitration Forum URS examiner, Darryl Wilson, didn’t buy it
While Nawas was not wrong about Dana being a common first name, I feel I’m on pretty safe ground saying the excuse about starting his own holding company was utter nonsense.
Nawas owns over 200 domains, most of which were registered during the first days of new gTLDs general availability and many of which appear to be cut-and-dried cases of outright cybersquatting.
He was called out by Forbes for registering tommyhilfiger.clothing. I’ve discovered he also owns such as names 4san.ventures and akfen.holdings, among others, which also seem to match company names.
Evidence of a pattern of cybersquatting can be used by URS panels to find bad faith, but that doesn’t seem to have happened in this case.
Rather, Wilson seems to have taken Nawas’ offer to sell the domain to Dana for “an unspecified amount” as evidence that he’s a wrong ‘un. Wilson found his explanation “dubious at best”.
IBM has won the first Uniform Rapid Suspension case to be filed against a new gTLD domain name.
National Arbitration Forum panelist Darryl Wilson handed down the perfunctory decision February 12, just seven days after IBM complained about ibm.ventures and ibm.guru.
Both domains have now been suspended, redirecting to a placeholder web site which states:
This Site is Suspended
The Domain Name you’ve entered is not available. It has been taken down as a result of dispute resolution proceedings pursuant to the Uniform Rapid Suspension System (URS) Procedure and Rules.
For more information relating to the URS, please visit: http://newgtlds.icann.org/en/applicants/urs
It was a slam dunk case, as you might imagine — the URS is designed to handle slam-dunk cases.
The registrant, who we estimate spent $2,500 on the two names, did not do himself any favors by redirecting both names to IBM’s .com site.
As we and Wilson both noted, this showed that he’d registered the names with IBM in mind.
IBM’s mark is included in the Trademark Clearinghouse, so the registrant will have been given a warning at the point of registration that he may be about to infringe someone’s IP rights.
Since the names were registered IBM, we’re told, has purchased a Domain Protected Marks List block from the registry, Donuts, which will prevent the names being re-registered when they expire.
If you were a cybersquatter, would you spend $2,500 on just two domain names without doing even the most basic research into whether you’d get to keep the names?
One individual from New Jersey has done precisely that, apparently, and has now been hit with what may well be the first new gTLD Uniform Rapid Suspension complaint, according to Donuts.
Donuts VP Mason Cole said in a DI comment today that the company has “been notified of an additional URS action involving two IBM names.”
I believe he’s referring to ibm.guru and ibm.ventures, two new gTLD domains I highlighted earlier today as being registered under Go Daddy’s Whois privacy service.
Privacy protection has since been lifted from both domains, in accordance with Go Daddy policy, revealing the registrant (assuming it’s not a fake name) as one Denis Antipov of New Jersey.
Both domains were redirecting to ibm.com when I checked a few days ago — showing that the registrant clearly had IBM in mind when he bought the names — but now do not resolve for me.
What’s funny is that the registration date of the domains is January 31. Due to Donuts’ Early Access Program, the registrant will have paid Go Daddy a total of $2,479.98 for the pair.
Now, he stands to lose that investment in a URS case that will set IBM back about the same amount.
Donuts’ Cole said: “When infringement is alleged, we want to see the due process tools developed for new TLDs put to use. Registries are not trademark adjudicators — we implement the objective decisions of others.”
UPDATE: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported the price the registrant will have paid for these names.
Facebook has become the first company to win a Uniform Rapid Suspension complaint.
The case, which dealt with the domain facebok.pw, took 37 days from start to finish.
This is what the suspended site now looks like:
The URS was designed for new gTLDs, but .PW Registry decided to adopt it too, to help it deal with some of the abuse it started to experience when it launched earlier this year.
Facebook was the first to file a complaint, on August 21. According to the decision, the case commenced about three weeks later, September 11, and was decided September 26.
I don’t know when the decision was published, but World Trademark Review appears to have been the first to spot it.
It was pretty much a slam-dunk, uncontroversial decision, as you might imagine given the domain. The standard is “clear and convincing evidence”, a heavier burden than UDRP.
The registrant did not respond to the complaint, but Facebook provided evidence showing he was a serial cybersquatter.
The decision was made by the National Arbitration Forum’s Darryl Wilson, who has over 100 UDRP cases under his belt. Here’s the meat of it:
IDENTICAL OR CONFUSINGLY SIMILAR
The only difference between the Domain Name, facebok.pw, and the Complainant’s FACEBOOK mark is the absence of one letter (“o”) in the Domain Name. In addition, it is well accepted that the top level domain is irrelevant in assessing identity or confusing similarity, thus the “.pw” is of no consequence here. The Examiner finds that the Domain Name is confusingly similar to Complainant’s FACEBOOK mark.
NO RIGHTS OR LEGITIMATE INTERESTS
To the best of the Complainant’s knowledge, the Respondent does not have any rights in the name FACEBOOK or “facebok” nor is the Respondent commonly known by either name. Complainant has not authorized Respondent’s use of its mark and has no affiliation with Respondent. The Domain Name points to a web page listing links for popular search topics which Respondent appears to use to generate click through fees for Respondent’s personal financial gain. Such use does not constitute a bona fide offering of goods or services and wrongfully misappropriates Complainant’s mark’s goodwill. The Examiner finds that the Respondent has established no rights or legitimate interests in the Domain Name.
BAD FAITH REGISTRATION AND USE
The Domain Name was registered and is being used in bad faith.
The Domain Name was registered on or about March 26, 2013, nine years after the Complainant’s FACEBOOK marks were first used and began gaining global notoriety.
The Examiner finds that the Respondent has engaged in a pattern of illegitimate domain name registrations (See Complainant’s exhibit URS Site Screenshot) whereby Respondent has either altered letters in, or added new letters to, well-known trademarks. Such behavior supports a conclusion of Respondent’s bad faith registration and use. Furthermore, the Complainant submits that the Respondent is using the Domain Name in order to attract for commercial gain Internet users to its parking website by creating a likelihood of confusion as to the source, sponsorship or affiliation of the website. The Examiner finds such behavior to further evidence Respondent’s bad faith registration and use.
The only remedy for URS is suspension of the domain. According to Whois, it still belongs to the respondent.
Read the decision in full here.