Alaska Oil and Gas Association filed a UDRP against the AOGA.com domain name, and the organization prevailed. In reading the decision, I can see both sides of the case and think it’s a tough situation. I think it was probably the right call, but I think the rationale for the decision was bad.
Alaska Oil and Gas Association previously owned AOGA.com. According to the decision, the complainant reportedly had the domain name stolen from its account at Network Solutions:
“Complainant lost control of the Domain Name via a fraudulent unauthorized transfer in 2020. In the context of Complainant’s investigation, Complainant contacted the registrar where the Domain Name had been registered, Network Solutions and the Registrar, where the account had been transferred. Complainant was informed by Network Solutions that third parties had contacted that registrar and ordered a transfer, which per Complainant was not authorised. Complainant further learned that its account with Network Solutions had been accessed several times by different people in different parts of the world. Unknown to Complainant and without authorization, one or more persons infiltrated Complainant’s domain management account and transferred the Disputed Domain to another.”
Making matters worse, the domain name was apparently sold to someone else on NameJet. According to NameBio, AOGA.com was sold $1,193 on NameJet in December of 2020. I did not participate in the auction, but I looked at historical Whois records on DomainTools and it does not appear that this domain name was ever in expired status.
It seems plausible that the domain name was, in fact, stolen from the complainant and the domain name was acquired by the registrant at an auction for $1,193. Beyond contacting the AOGA to ask about the domain name, it would have been difficult to know the domain name was stolen, particularly if the buyer did not have access to a paid account at DomainTools or DomainIQ.
Yes, the complainant most likely had the domain name stolen from its account but the current registrant bought a 4 letter acronym domain name at auction without knowing it was stolen.
This makes things a bit murky, particularly because it’s a fairly generic domain name and the complainant organization is Alaska Oil and Gas Association and not a company called Aoga.
One big issue I have with the decision is where the panelist highlights the discrepancy between the purchase price and the registrant’s asking price as if it should matter:
“Prior to the notice of the dispute, Respondent did not demonstrate any use of the Domain Name or a name corresponding to the Domain Name in connection with a bona fide offering of goods or services.
On the contrary, as Complainant demonstrated, the Domain Name resolved to a page, where it was being offered for sale for USD 88,000.01, an amount much higher than its acquisition price by Respondent of USD 1,193.”
In my opinion, a domain name registrant has the right to ask any price he or she would like to ask. The acquisition price of a domain name does not have to have to correlate with the purchase price.
Furthermore, time and time again, UDRP panels have ruled that domain investing is a legitimate business and domain investors can sell their domain names. I see no reason why a panelist should cite the inequity between a purchase price and an asking price as a reason to find that the domain registrant doesn’t have a legitimate interest in the domain name.
I also have an issue with a conclusion the panelist made about why the registrant bought the domain name in the first place:
“The Panel concludes that is more likely than not that Respondent has registered and used the Domain Name in bad faith. Because the AOGA mark had been used at the time of the Domain Name registration by Respondent, noting the composition of the Domain Name, the fact that a WhoIs search would have shown that the Domain Name was created in 1998, and that the Domain Name was being used previously by Complainant, the Panel finds that Respondent knew of Complainant’s mark when registering the Domain Name, and probably registered it due to its identity to the AOGA mark used by Complainant.”
This, to me, makes no sense. As an investor, if I see a company give up a domain name – perhaps to expiry or sale – I assume they do not want the domain name any longer. Even if the domain name accidentally expired, my belief is the company would be reluctant to pay market value for the domain name since it expired in error. No company wants to go out and spend five figures to buy a domain name that expired in error. If I was bidding on AOGA.com, would have assumed the Alaska Oil and Gas Association either did not want the domain name any longer or would not be willing to pay market value for the domain name if it was an accidental expiry.
In any case, I think this was probably the right decision given the circumstances and AOGA acronym belonging to the complainant, but I also think the rationale for reaching the decision was significantly flawed.