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California ISP Guilty of Reverse Domain Name Hijacking

ISP tries to get domain name registered many years before it even existed.

A World Intellectual Property Forum panel has found California internet service provider Webpass, Inc guilty of reverse domain name hijacking in its attempt to get the domain name WebPass.com. The ISP uses Web-Pass.com as its web page.

Webpass, Inc. didn’t start using the Web Pass name until 2007, but the current registrant of WebPass.com registered the domain name in 2001. As such, it’s impossible that the domain name was registered in bad faith unless the owner is psychic.

Webpass, Inc. and its representative (Law Office of Richard J. Greenstone) pointed to a misguided case Telstra Corporation Limited v. Nuclear Marshmallows that some rogue panelists have used to argue a domain name doesn’t have to be initially registered in bad faith to still be in violation of UDRP rules.

But panelist Richard Hill wasn’t swayed. He was also a bit miffed that the complainant incorrectly argued that webpass.com hadn’t been used and this was evidence of bad faith:

The Complainant argues that the Respondent has not used the disputed domain name, and that this demonstrates his bad faith. But this allegation is not correct. As the Complainant itself points out, the Respondent has used the disputed domain name in the past.

In finding reverse domain name hijacking, Hill wrote:

The Complainant knew when it filed the Complaint that the registration of the disputed domain name preceded by several years any rights that the Complainant may have acquired in the mark WEB PASS. Indeed, the Complainant annexes a printout of the WhoIs registration to the Complaint, and that printout indicates that the domain name was created well before the Complainant’s first use in commerce of its mark. In this Panel’s view, this is sufficient to find reverse domain name hijacking.

This is another example of a case in which the domain name owner shouldn’t have had to put up a defense at all.

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  1. Jeremy Leader says

    I think you meant rogue, not rouge (I make that mistake all too often myself). Although perhaps those panelists *should* be red-cheeked in embarrassment.

  2. John Berryhill says

    There has been a real rash of these sorts of chronologically-deficient claims lately.

    The reason is that while some well-intentioned panelists have tried to bend the UDRP to get at situations where an early domain registrant may have changed their use of the domain name to take advantage of an intervening mark, the point they are trying to make is being lost in the shuffle. The average UDRP panelist is a heck of a lot brighter than the average complainant’s attorney. Hence, it’s pretty much open season on domain registrants for these sorts of claims.

    The entire point of the UDRP was to provide quick and simple resolution for clearly abusive domain registrations. Turning into an academically-nuanced body of evolving common law is a mistake.

  3. nr says

    what does it mean when they are found guilty of reverse domain name hijacking? is there a penalty? if you win a UDRP do you still have to pay legal fees or does the loser pay yours?

  4. Steve says

    Until there is a large financial penalty there is no deterrent to abuse the system and waste legitimate domain owners money and time.

  5. Bill Sweetman says

    I agree with Steve’s comment. If a complainant is found guilty of reverse domain name hijacking, they should be fined or *at least* be forced to pay for the respondent’s legal bill. With any luck this would eventually cut down the number of bogus and abusive UDRP complaints.

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