Panel rules that Bernina International is guilty of reverse domain name hijacking over Bernette.com domain name.
Frank Schilling has successfully defended his domain name Bernette.com in a UDRP, and the panel has found BERNINA International AG guilty of reverse domain name hijacking by filing the case.
Bernina is a Swiss company that has sold sewing machines under the Bernette brand since 1985. Schilling acquired the domain name in 2007.
Bernette is a common first and last name, and the parking page at Bernette.com has shown ads related to names, babies, and genealogy.
Bernina tried to buy the domain name between 2010 and 2016. Schilling’s brokers asked for between $26,000-$29,000 on multiple occasions in response to the inquiries.
Despite Schilling’s attorney John Berryhill warning Bernina that a UDRP filing would fail, the company still filed the UDRP. The UDRP certainly showed a lack of knowledge by the complainant.
For example, the complainant argued that Schilling obtained the disputed domain name from “apparently dubious Asian sources”. Schilling actually bought the domain name in an expired domain name auction and had no contact with the prior owner.
Bernina also included the brokers’ offers to sell the domain name to Bernina but did not mention that they were in response to its inquiries. Panelists tend to frown on this sort of trickery.
Bernina also argued:
The Respondent owns over 240,000 domain names. The Respondent and the Registrar are affiliated entities. They are “stockpiling” domain names via a network of companies at an offshore location without disclosing the beneficial owner’s identity. Such circumstances indicate bad faith. The Respondent’s only interest is in selling domain names and by operating offshore the Respondent is trying to hide by erecting legal hurdles against trade mark owners.
The panel found that the domain name wasn’t registered or used in bad faith. It found Reverse Domain Name Hijacking on four grounds:
1. It didn’t mention its inquiries about buying the domain name, instead implying that they were unsolicited.
2. It didn’t do basic research to determine who owned the domain name, and instead said it was a person hiding behind “offshore” entities. As the panel pointed out, “doing a basic Internet search” would reveal the owner and his business model. Additionally, the business in Cayman is certainly not “offshore” as Schilling lives there and runs a large business there.
3. It’s a classic Plan B case in which the complainant filed a UDRP after failing to acquire the domain name through purchase negotiations.
4. Berryhill warned the complainant why it wouldn’t win a UDRP, but Bernina filed it anyway.