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Tenant Dispute Over HomeAwayfromHome.com

Vacation rental company files domain arbitration cases.

HomeAway
HomeAway.com in Domain Dispute

When I go on vacation with my family, I usually try to rent a vacation home. Not only is it affordable for a family, but it lets you live with the locals. To find vacation homes I usually turn to HomeAway, Inc., an Austin-based company that has raised over $400 million of capital to do a roll up of vacation rental web sites.

So I was disappointed this week to see that the company filed a domain arbitration case for the generic domain name HomeAwayFromHome.com. HomeAway has several registered trademarks for “Home Away from Home”. Two of them were filed recently with first used in commerce dates of 2008. However, the company also acquired or licensed a trademark that was registered in 1999. But HomeAway, Inc. wasn’t founded until 2005.

A HomeAway representative said the company filed the complaint after trying to contact the owner of HomeAwayfromHome.com numerous times without success.

HomeAwayFromHome.com is registered to Frank Schilling’s Name Administration, which receives perhaps hundreds or thousands of unsolicited queries every month.

On the same day HomeAway filed the dispute for HomeAwayFromHome.com, it also filed one for VRBOcleaner.com. HomeAway owns VRBO.com (Vacation Rental By Owner). The registered owner of the domain runs a small home cleaning business that does a work for vacation home owners that list their homes on VRBO.com. She said that Home Away contacted her about the domain, and she decided to give it up. She thought she was supposed to cancel the domain with the registrar, but of course that means it can’t be transferred to Home Away. Therefore, Home Away filed the UDRP.

Although that case will simply require a rubber stamp from NAF, I wouldn’t be surprised if a panel found HomeAway guilty of Reverse Domain Name Hijacking for HomeAwayfromHome.com. That might be better than the alternative for HomeAway; if it somehow convinces an arbitration panel that it should hand over this generic domain, it will surely end up in a court fight.

In that case, it might need to use its service to find a nice vacation rental in Cayman Islands.

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  1. Jay

    Some of these companies need to realize that when they attempt to overreach and file frivolous claims and someone like you publishes this I put that company on my “no business” list which gets spread around to everyone I know family/friends and then they spread it to everyone they know, today with email lists with thousands of subscribers, twitter etc… word of mouth travels fast so even if they do pull off the upset the amount of damage that can be done beforehand would offset any gain they would receive from the domain, I would talk more but I gotta add HomeAway to my “no business” list that goes out to a few k subscribers, I would pick up HomeAwaySucks.com but they already own it, HomeAwayFromHomeSucks.com is available but I doubt they will beat Frank so no use.

  2. mactel

    Well written article.

    I also think, that HomeAwayFromHome.com is the better name.

    This does show us, that long domains names can make sense, and be better than a shorter one.

    If I am allowed, to say this: I guess, if had created a such a name, with the same words, I probably would of looked like this:
    home-away-from-home.com, which I personally would favor, as homeawayfromhome.com is more difficult to read and understand.

    A lot of companies, who file a domain arbitration case, are not fair: They want the domain without paying for it. And there is no such thing, like a gentleman agreement.

    There should be more amicably/out of court/outside court agreements and decisions.

    But companies prefere to save a few dollars, or to pay the arbitration fees of ca. $1500.

    But companies just know, that mostly the are able to win. So they won’t loose more then the cost for the fees ($1500 per case).

    Companie should wisely decide, if the want to have the case public, or if they want to get their domain outside court, and maybe pay a little more, than the $1500, or at least the same amount.

    In some cases, these disputes might be good or bad for companies, as the domain community will be able to read about the case.

    A company that files a dispute, might have to risk, that it will look a bit awkward, it it looses the case. Which can happen.

    You can’t always get the “penny and the bun”.
    And WIPO history has shown this (to get the domain and keep the good reputation, as well).

    The one who files the case, has to pay the fees. In Joe Domainers best case, he can keep the domain, and has no fees to pay. And if he can’t keep the domain, he has neither any fees to pay. So, for him,it is only about keeping or loosing the domain, without having to loose more.

    If he looses, and refuses to transfer the domain, than it might get expensive for him, as the other party can go to court, and carry the case further.

    If he looses, his reputation might be a bit damaged, and Joe Domainer might be a hero, or might have to pay the costs for the case.

  3. Domain Investor

    Since, Frank has deeper pockets than most domainers.
    He has the capability to easily see this thru federal court.

    Furthermore, he has one of the best IP lawyers in the industry. John Berryhill doesn’t win every case but his batting average is one of the best.

  4. mactel

    You can never be at home, when away from home, but you can feel like at home.
    That is why this makes more sense.
    And let the WIPO panelist have a good lough, as well:
    Feelathomewhenaway.com

    Feel At Home When Away.com

    And because short names are mostly prefered, you try to shorten it, but by keeping the good and clear understanding and meaning:

    Feel Home Away

    FeelHomeAway.com

    BINGO!

    Use your brain, not WIPO.

  5. slavik

    That Frankie is one sharp dude. Not only do I marvel at the quality of his selections every time one comes to public attention like this. EVERY name is defenseble. That’s the difference when one makes informed buying decisions.

  6. Gary

    It amuses me to see how companies stoop low to capture running websites and do a reverse domain name hijacking just because they have battery of lawyers to go after generic domain name owners. Domain name squatting is one thing, reverse domain name hijacking is not becoming just as serious problem!

    I hope WIPO takes a wise decision on this one!

    Thx
    G

  7. Domain Investor

    Quote-
    “reverse domain name hijacking is not becoming just as serious problem!”

    We are only at the beginning of this trend.
    It will only stop after all of the low hanging fruit has been picked and we are gone.

    Then, major companies will start going after each other. We are already seeing this happen. (search DNW)

  8. domain report

    “home away from home” is a common term that almost everyone has probably used at least once in their life to refer to somewhere they like. Frank should get to keep this domain.

  9. Henry

    Just a thought. Is it legally possible to challenge the trademark after the fact since it’s the basis for filing the domain arbitration?

    Maybe the fear of losing their mark on a generic term entirely may be enough to give them pause. They will think twice before initiating one.

  10. Getaway Earth

    The defense of a registered trademark, whether in the vacation rentals business or in any other field, is of course understandable. Targeting older holiday home domains with generic names though may backfire in terms of how such an action is perceived by the wider rentals community…

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