“Catch-All” Email Pitch Leads to Losing UDRP

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I’ve heard differing opinions about setting up a catch all email for domain names owned by investors. What this means is that any email sent to any email address for that domain name will be delivered to an inbox controlled by the domain registrant. Whether emails received are typos or spam messages, everything gets delivered. I have never been a fan of doing this, and a recent UDRP loss illustrates why it can put a domain name in peril.

A UDRP was filed against Magna.CO at WIPO. The complainant, Magna International Inc.,  uses the Magna.com domain name for its website. When I saw that the Magna.CO domain name was lost in the UDRP, I was curious to see what happened. In my opinion, without considering the usage of the domain name, Magna seems like a generic term. As such, Magna.CO should conceivably be safe to own.

According to the complaint, the domain registrant set up a catch-all email address and used that is part of a pitch to sell the domain name to the UDRP complainant. Here’s an excerpt from the decision containing the message that was sent to the complainant:

“In August 2020, the Respondent contacted the Complainant via LinkedIn, stating in relevant part as follows:

“I own domain name and I am reaching out to few companies to explore a possible sale of the domain name.

When I setup the email address for magna.co to contact potential end users, I started receiving business emails concerning your company (check attachment).

Would you be interested in owning this domain name to protect your business information and brand?”

The Complainant rejected this initial offer to buy the disputed domain name. The Respondent then sent another LinkedIn message as follows:

“Thank you for your reply. I thought its better that your company owns this domain name. In the last three weeks I got 350+ emails concerning your company.

Imagine your competitors American Axle & Manufacturing, Lear Corporation, Visteon, Faurecia, Linamar, Aptiv or Gentex owning the domain name and what information they can extract from the emails to gain advantage on your company. It can be a minor leak with serious consequences.

Once the domain is sold to an end user its very difficult and expensive to own. If you are reconsidering this matter, Visit magna.co and submit your offer.””

One of the biggest reasons for losing the dispute was because of the catch-all email address that was created. Here’s what the panelist noted in the decision:

“Simply put, the evidence before the Panel makes it appear more likely than not that the Respondent registered the disputed domain name to profit in bad faith from its connection to Complainant’s mark and email address ending and the misdirected emails that the Respondent likely knew it would receive from the catch-all email inbox Respondent created with the disputed domain name.”

I don’t love the idea of setting up a catch all email address, and I think the strategy of contacting the owner of the .com domain name was not a good idea.

13 COMMENTS

  1. Very good post Elliot.
    The stupid things I may have thought about doing 20+ years ago – are just wrong – and I knew better. This guy is doing those real stupid things.
    Good opinion and the real reason UDRP exists – vs. others that exploit UDRP.
    Bri

  2. I don’t think the mere fact that he setup a catchall email was the reason he lost. The reason he lost was his blatant explicit threat regarding “leak” in such emails. After all, it is your domain and you can do with it whatever you want (short of abusing such misdirected emails). But the his idiotic transparent threats did him in.

  3. “was not a good idea.” Again you are very kind.

    It was an outright stupid idea especially the way it was presented and then it even sounded like a threat. (Hinting that the domain could be sold to a competitor….)

  4. I think a .co website is much more likely to lose emails to the .com domain than vice versa, so I suspect the seller lied about the 350+ emails, although maybe not if Magna.com is a very popular site.

    If he didn’t lie I think he was performing a service for Magna.com in informing them of the situation and giving them an opportunity to make an offer for the domain. That isn’t something which should be illegal, imo.

    If he did then he committed the crime of dishonest advertising, in which case if Magna.com had bought the domain and discovered those emails weren’t real they could have complained to the police (at least in an ideal world, imo) or sued.

  5. Owner of magna.co should have kept quiet and could have simply put a dan lander on the Domain name. It would have got sold then. “Catch for all” made him loose the Domain Name. Magna is a generic term and as you said Name of town.

  6. I think the issue was more the tone of the email – from personal experience, I have a super premium one word domain (easily 7 figure EU pricing) that I bought specifically to use for a startup that we elected not to pursue due to COVID. After we put our plans on pause and wound down the plans, I setup a catch-all because I still get emails for some of our former employees from time to time and didn’t want to miss anything important.

    I’ve notified a handful of the companies operating on some variation of the name, who’s emails regularly come through to the domain/inbox, and every one has been appreciative that I have done it.

    I will sell the name *now, as we don’t have plans to use it, but that was never the plan when we acquired the domain, setup the company, etc. and if you let them know in a non-threatening way and are doing it to be helpful, I don’t anticipate most companies getting upset. There could be more important emails they are missing that they’d like to know about.

  7. Yes Jack –
    Although I am NOT a NON DOT COMer – had this guy not misbehaved – he probably would have gotten somewhere what all the UDRP cost incurred were.
    And at the same time had he not contacted the Complainant – the domain probably would have just rotted ?

  8. “I don’t love the idea of setting up a catch all email address” “…it can put a domain name in peril.”

    IMO the catch-all address has nothing to do with it. Why wouldn’t you as the domain owner want to see any and all emails sent to your domain? Nothing sinister about it. If it’s sent in error, it’s not your fault. It was the way he approached the company that brought him down, it was obviously a twist-of-the-knife approach to selling the domain.

    I have contacted a .cc extension about an email or two sent to my .com extension, and the sender of the email, just as a courtesy to let them know it’s the wrong address – I didn’t offer to sell the domain and nobody could ever accuse me of holding a domain to ransom. In fact I see it like I did them a favor and wasted my own precious time informing them. Then they either can or won’t make an offer for my domain if they see it as a problem – that’s their business.

    • If a company knows a domain investor has a domain name with MX records (or they hear from partners/customers/employees about accidental emails), it would likely make them upset, particularly on an obvious typo. They would then evaluate their options to get the domain name and their costs since they believe the domain registrant could see misdirected private emails which could be damaging if they were publicized.

      • In my view view it is like moving into a a house and opening up all the mail that came for the previous owner, then telling them about all the confidential letters you’ve been seeing.

        Some are going out of their way to make sure they get these emails that would normally have bounced, then using them as part of a sales strategy. I would expect in time this is going to become an example of bad faith in UDRP’s.

  9. @Elliot: Sure I get that, but it in no way makes a domain owner malicious if they get someone else’s email by someone else’s mistake.

    @Snoopy: You’d likely send the mail back for a previous owner until they get their **** in order. But for any new mail, or if you’re the first owner of the house, and you get mail then it’s yours to see what it is. Maybe someone has done fraud and used your address/house as the contact address. It’s certainly your right to find out who tries to contact you and why – it’s YOUR address! Just like you put a mailbox on your house to catch all letters, nothing devious about a mailbox on your domain to catch all emails. And it ain’t your fault if the Snoopy (or even Rambo for example) in a similar street/suburb has his mail mistakenly sent to you.

    This almost sounds like a psyop to promote “catch-all email = sinister intentions” for use in future UDRPs. Are a team of people planting the seeds for future cases?

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