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Reverse domain name hijacking in HUG.com case

Hospital organization tried to reverse hijack valuable domain names, panel says.

Hôpitaux Universitaires de Genève, a group of hospitals in Geneva, has been found to have engaged in reverse domain name hijacking over the domain names Hug.com, hug.net and hug.org.

The hospital organization filed a UDRP against the owner of the domain names after it failed to negotiate an acceptable offer to purchase the domains, specifically hug.org.

The owner of the domain names paid $403,585 for hug.com, $6,490 for hug.net and $10,200 hug.org with an eye toward running a business on the domains. He created a business entity in California, but the business failed and he subsequently dissolved the business.

At that point, he worked with a broker to sell the domains. The broker reached out to the hospital with an offer to sell all three domains. The asking price was seven figures.

The parties ultimately focused on hug.org, but their price expectations were too far apart. The hospital chain filed the UDRP after negotiations broke down.

At no time during the negotiations did the hospital suggest any trademark rights, the World Intellectual Property Organization panel wrote. The panel determined that filing the UDRP was a Plan B after failing to buy the hug.org domain.

The panel found the complainant’s arguments of lack of rights and registration in bad faith rather weak. It wrote:

On the basis that the documents exhibited by the Respondent are genuine, it appears that the Respondent paid over USD 400,000 to acquire the Domain Name hug.com in 2014. It is inconceivable that the Respondent intended to resell this Domain Name to the Complainant or a competitor of the Complainant at a price that would return a profit over this outlay, let alone one at such a margin as would justify the considerable risk being taken. Noone would realistically harbour an expectation that public hospitals would pay this kind of sum for a domain name.

The respondent also showed proof of creating the business entity and hiring employees.

The hospital was represented by LHA avocats. The domain name owner was represented by Wiley Rein LLP.

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  1. Stein says

    The 3 WIPO panelists in this case were:
    Jonathan Turner UK
    François Dessemontet Switzerland
    Tony Willoughby UK

    The 2 panelists who found Complainant guilty of RDNH were from the UK.

    The Complainant (Hôpitaux Universitaires de Genève) is based in Geneva.
    The Complainant’s attorneys LHA Avocats are based in Geneva Switzerland.
    WIPO panelist François Dessemontet, who didn’t find this was RDNH, is based in Lausanne Switzerland.

    Can anyone spot any common denominator here?

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