Company goes after Viking.org in arbitration only to find out the real reason the owner didn’t want to sell it.
Viking Office Products, Inc., an affiliate of Office Depot, has been found guilty of reverse domain name hijacking in a bizarre case involving Viking.org.
The office products company filed for arbitration with National Arbitration Forum to get the domain name, and painted registrant Natasha Flaherty as a cybersquatter who would only consider selling the domain name if she was offered a lot of money.
Respondent has registered the domain name and held it without using it in an apparent attempt to gain a “six or seven figureâ€ windfall. Respondent has been the sole registrant of the viking.org domain name for approximately 1.5 years and has merely held the domain name passively. Such passive holding supports a finding of bad faith registration and use.
But there was a good reason Flaherty wasn’t interesting in selling the domain name for cheap — it was owned by her late husband Paul A. Flaherty. Paul is an inventor of Altavista, one of the first web search engines. He died suddenly in 2006 at the age of 42.
Natasha and Paul used the domain name throughout their marriage for email and Paul used it as a personal web site. When Paul died the domain name was transferred to Natasha.
Viking Office Products hired some IP experts to reach out to Natasha about buying the domain, but they allegedly never mentioned they were working on behalf of the company and refused to answer the question.
After receiving Natasha’s response to the UDRP, Viking stated:
If the Respondent had said to the investigators what she is now saying to the Panel, namely that she has a sentimental attachment to the domain name and that she has some (undefined) free speech use in mind for the domain name and that it was therefore not for sale, that would have ended the matter.
But it then said that her demands for 7 or 8 figures showed her bad faith intent.
Now I can understand how Viking’s lawyers may not have known the entire story behind the domain name when they filed this case. But after receiving the response, and admitting that they would have dropped the issue had they known the whole story, that’s when it’s time to drop the case so you don’t embarrass yourself.
Instead they proceeded and lost.
Panelist Daniel B. Banks found against the office products company on all three aspects of UDRP and found it guilty of reverse domain name hijacking. (Banks was correct in his overall decision, although finding that the domain wasn’t confusingly similar to Viking because it was generic is at odds with most UDRP decisions.)