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Kevin Ham successfully defends UDRP against SNF.com

SNF.com saved in UDRP decision.

Kevin Ham’s company Vertical Axis has successfully defended a UDRP filed against its domain name SNF.com.

S.P.C.M. SA filed the complaint. It appears to be affiliated with a company that owns SNF.fr.

The complainant tried to argue that Vertical Axis was “willfully blind” to its trademark when it registered its domain.

Of course, there are lots of companies and organizations that use three letter acronyms. Three letter domains can often be considered generic.

The panel determined that willful blindness is limited:

The Panel accepts that a registrant cannot be “willfully blind” to whether the disputed domain name may violate trademark rights. The question however is what amounts to “willful blindness”. The primary obligation on a registrant is set out in paragraph 2 of the Policy and that obligation is to determine if its registration violates another party’s trademark rights. This is not however an absolute obligation, which bars any registration of any domain name if someone else, somewhere in the world, has a trademark (however obscure) corresponding to the name. The question of when the registration will amount to violation of rights is one of fact and degree, depending upon many factors, such as the geographical locations concerned, the nature and scale of the trademark owners business, how well known and/or famous the trademark in question is and so on. In the present case, the Panel is satisfied that the nature of the rights that the Complainant had at the relevant date were not such as to render the Respondent guilty of “willful blindness” when it registered the Domain Name.

The panel concludes:

There is also no evidence before the Panel that anyone outside the specialized areas the Complainant operates in would have any awareness of the Complainant’s business under the letters “SNF”. Further in the present case there is no evidence that the Respondent had actual knowledge of the Complainant or its trademark and there is no evidence and no reason to suggest that the Panel should disbelieve the Respondent’s account that it had never heard of the Complainat or its rights. Had the three letter acronym been, say, IBM or BMW that fact could allow the Panel to reach such a conclusion, as it could reasonably be assumed that a Respondent would have actual knowledge of such famous brands. But there is no evidence at all of the Complainant having any reputation outside the specialized area in which it operates in either 2001 or indeed today. The Panel accordingly considers that no case of willful blindness is made out on the present facts.

SNF.com is parked but has not shown any ads related to the complainant.

The panel also pointed out that the complainant must have been aware of Vertical Axis’ 2001 registration of SNF.com for a long time, but only now decided to pursue the domain name.

For some reason the panel did not consider reverse domain name hijacking.

Vertical Axis was represented by ESQwire.com.

WIPO Decision D2014-0327

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