Panelist gets decision correct but doesn’t consider reverse domain name hijacking.
A World Intellectual Property Organization panelist has denied New Canaan, Connecticut-based Bankwell Financial Group in its cybersquatting complaint against Bankwell.com.
However, panelist Peter Dernbach did not consider if Bankwell engaged in reverse domain name hijacking by bringing the case. He probably should have.
The same owner has had the domain name since he registered it in 2003. Bankwell wasn’t formed until 2013 when three Connecticut banks merged.
The domain name registrant added whois privacy this year, and Bankwell pounced. It argued:
The Respondent acquired the Disputed Domain Name sometime between February 9, 2015 and April 14, 2015, and purchased privacy services after the Complainant had established its name and website under the BANKWELL trademark.
For good measure, the bank threw in the argument that “a renewal or transfer of a registration may, in some circumstances, be treated as a “new registration”.
Bankwell then argued:
Sometime after April 14, 2015, and after removing its name from the registration by putting a privacy protection proxy in place, the Respondent began using the Disputed Domain Name in bad faith, by modifying the related links and hyperlinks from non-bank related links and hyperlinks to the links and hyperlinks of the Complainant’s competitors and/or competitive services.
It makes sense that a parked domain name at Bankwell.com would show ads for banks. Perhaps Bankwell didn’t know this (or perhaps it ignored it), but the domain name had banking ads on it in 2008, well before Bankwell came into existence.
In other words, there’s no way this domain name was registered to target the bank formed in 2013. The ads on the pages were legitimate, too. The respondent took down the ads after receiving the complaint, and I think this was a mistake. He’s using the domain name based on the generic/descriptive words, which is a bona fide use.
So why no reverse domain name hijacking?
Bankwell uses MyBankwell.com for its website.