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UDRP panelist uses common sense for acronym domain names

Unfortunately her peers didn’t.

It’s quite common for UDRPs to be filed against short domain names that can be acronyms for various businesses and organizations. These UDRP frequently target three and four letter domain names, which are often times valuable domains.

A WIPO panel has just handed down a decision in the case of adac.net, finding that the domain should be transferred to the German company ADAC e.V..

The first thing you’ll notice is that ADAC e.V. doesn’t own ADAC.com. ADAC.com is owned by Abu Dhabi Airports Company.

This is important because it illustrates that these short domain names can be acronyms for any number of companies. It’s hard to argue that the registrant had a specific company in mind when acquiring the domain name, unless it’s a dominant one.

There are a lot of problems with the decision in this case. For example, the panel came to the determination that the respondent was asking far more than his out of pocket costs because he bought the domain as part of a portfolio of 3,000 domains for $700,000.

True, that comes out to an average of just $233 a name. But you don’t need a background in finance to understand that not all domains in a portfolio purchase have equal value!

At this point you’re wondering what the headline has to do with an article that describes a domain owner losing his four letter domain. Well, panelist Diane Cabell dissented. She used common sense:

Acronyms and initials should be treated the same as generic words because they also have multiple fair uses; many users adopt them as shorter references for different phrases. Some acronyms and initials may be trademarked, however the fact that they can be legally adopted by so many non-infringing users makes it harder to prove that there was any bad faith directed toward any particular mark owner. I see nothing in the evidence here that shows the Complainant was targeted at the time the Domain Name was registered and bad faith is required not only in use but also in registration.

Short domain names consisting of initials/acronyms are far more valuable than other domain names because of their many possible fair uses and due to the brevity of the domain name. If we are to claim that the price asked is excessive, we should require some proof that it is far above the actual market value for such an asset.

It also seems unreasonable to ask domain name registrants to search every trademark database in the entire world simply to avoid a possible bad faith assertion; rather it is for the Complainant to show that acts of bad faith actually occurred.

Not only does Cabell use common sense about acronym domains in general, but she also addresses the issue of suggesting that a domain is worth $x without anything to back it up.

Kudos to Ms. Cabell.

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  1. ChuckWagen says

    PPC links more and more are geolocation-generated as well as based on browsing habits, so of course the page would’ve offered up .de websites. Still a troubling decision.

  2. Yoni B says

    The PPC page wasn’t showing geolocated results. The PPC page was showing non-infringing results. The lack of infringement wasn’t actually taken into account here and thus bad faith nor lack of legitimate rights was never actually proven.

    The geolocation-generated results they are referring to was when the attorney went on Google to search for “adac” to prove the worldwide fame of the company. Given the geolocation aspect of Google, that actually only proved they are locally known.

    The scary part here, due to the lack of infringement and bad faith, is that this decision infers that the domain buying and selling business is not a legitimate one as every short acronym and generic word out there has a TM on it.

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