FEEV.com UDRP: Reverse Domain Name Hijacking

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In November of 2019, I saw that a UDRP was filed against the FEEV.com domain name at the World Intellectual Property Organization. When I saw the UDRP filing, I speculated that it could be a case of Reverse Domain Name Hijacking (RDNH) because a quick Whois lookup showed “the registrant organization of the domain name is and has been FeeV.” The complainant in the UDRP is a company called Feev Holding B.V.

The UDRP decision was published this morning, and the panelist ruled this was, in fact, an “abuse of the administrative proceeding” and found it to be a case of Reverse Domain Name Hijacking. The domain registrant, who was self-represented in this UDRP, will retain the domain name. The Panelist who decided the UDRP was Nick J. Gardner.

You can read the entire UDRP decision on the WIPO website, but the section covering the RDNH decision offers the rationale for why this case was ruled in favor of the domain registrant:

“Several circumstances of this case have led the Panel to consider whether the filing of the Complaint constitutes “using the Policy in bad faith to attempt to deprive a registered domain name holder of a domain name” – see the Rules, paragraph 1, definition of Reverse Domain Name Hijacking (“RDNH”). Paragraph 15(e) of the Rules provides that if after considering the submissions the Panel finds that the complaint was brought in bad faith, for example in an attempt at RDNH, or was brought primarily to harass the domain name holder, the Panel shall declare in its decision that the complaint was brought in bad faith and constitutes an abuse of the administrative proceeding. The Rules, paragraph 15(e), call for this analysis even when the Respondent has not expressly requested a finding of abuse – see Timbermate Products Pty Ltd v. Domains by Proxy, LLC / Barry Gork, WIPO Case No. D2013-1603.

In Jazeera Space Channel TV Station v. AJ Publishing aka Aljazeera Publishing, WIPO Case No. D2005-0309, the majority of the three-member panel noted that the onus of proving that a complainant has acted in bad faith is on the respondent, and that mere lack of success of the complaint is not of itself sufficient to constitute RDNH. The majority went on to note that:

“Allegations of reverse domain name hijacking have been upheld in circumstances where a respondent’s use of a domain name could not, under any fair interpretation of the facts, have constituted bad faith, and where a reasonable investigation would have revealed the weaknesses in any potential complaint under the Policy (see Goldline International, Inc v. Gold Line, WIPO Case No. D2000-1151). See also Deutsche Welle v. DiamondWare Limited, WIPO Case No. D2000-1202, where an allegation of reverse domain name hijacking was upheld in circumstances where the complainant knew that the respondent used the at-issue domain name as part of a bona fide business, and where the registration date of the at-issue domain name preceded the dates of the complainant’s relevant trademark registrations.”

The three-member panel in Yell Limited v. Ultimate Search, WIPO Case No. D2005-0091, noted that whether a complainant should have appreciated at the outset that its complaint could not succeed will often be an important consideration.

In the view of the Panel this is a Complaint which should never have been launched. The Complainant should have appreciated that establishing registration and use in bad faith in respect of a domain name which had first been registered many years previously was likely to be impossible. The Complainant appears to have ignored any such considerations. It adopted an entirely unwarranted and misconceived approach based on a supposed contractual entitlement which even if it was well founded (which the Panel doubts) should have been brought to a different forum. The Complainant also threatened the Respondent with costs liability if an UDRP complaint was brought when no such liability exists under the UDRP. Finally it then introduced a completely misconceived allegation of criminal conduct against the Respondent which had no factual foundation whatsoever.

Given the relevant facts, the nature of the Policy and the fact that the Complainant was legally represented this was a case which should never have been brought nor should it have been presented in the manner it was. The Panel therefore finds that the Complaint was brought in bad faith and constitutes an abuse of the administrative proceeding.”

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