Here’s an interesting case from across the pond in the United Kingdom. A story on Out-Law.com describes the struggle over the citigroup.co.uk domain name and Jim Davies, who registered the domain in 1998 the same day the merger between Travelers Group and Citicorp was announced.
Citigroup showed its incompetence by not registering citigroup.co.uk (or citigroup.com for that matter) before announcing the merger. But they swiftly filed arbitration disputes to get the domain names from the registrants. For the .co.uk domain this meant going through Nominet’s dispute resolution system. But Jim Davies decided to strike first by suing Citigroup. A trademark lawsuit halts all Nominet action. Davies figured doing this might result in a favorable verdict for him, whereas Nominet would surely rule in Citigroup’s favor.
Davies made a number of missteps. He claimed that he didn’t even know about the merger prior to registering the domain (which the UK judge later called “palpable nonsense”. Davies also started receiving confidential e-mails meant for Citigroup.
Because this case was in a court of law and not a dispute arbitration, Davies was also found liable to pay damages. The first payment is Â£30,000, with a final amount to include legal costs.
There are a couple lessons in this case:
1. This was a case of a company in 1998 having poor controls to register critical domain names. Have companies improved their processes to register domain names? Nope. Even tech innovators like Apple can’t figure it out.
2. If you register a trademarked name that you really have no right to (e.g., it’s not a common term), don’t try to take on Goliath in court. However, if it’s a case of a company doing reverse cybersquatting, do whatever you can to fight it.