In July of this year, Domain Gang published an article about Tilt.com. The domain name had been owned by Airbnb and was reportedly stolen from the company when the Whois registrant email domain name was acquired by a third party. Tilt.com was then registered to Greenberg & Lieberman, an Intellectual Property law firm and domain name escrow service provider.
Airbnb filed a UDRP at the National Arbitration Forum (NAF) in an attempt to recover the domain name. The decision was published this morning, and the single member panel ruled against Airbnb. The panelist found that the domain name was likely stolen but the complainant was unable to prove that the domain name was registered in bad faith given the current registrant. In order to have won the UDRP, Airbnb would have needed to prove the domain name was registered and being used in bad faith.
Here’s an excerpt from the decision:
“While the Panel has sympathy for Complainant’s situation, namely that it appears Complainant was the victim of a Domain Name hijacking, it is necessary, in order for a transfer order to be made under the Policy, for the Panel to reach a conclusion that in registering or acquiring the Domain Name, the Respondent was acting in bad faith. The Panel has closely reviewed the material provided by both parties and does not reach that conclusion.”
The UDRP was not made to handle a situation like this, and I think the panelist made the right call based on the facts of the case. The panelist did point out how unusual this case was and that the complainant could refile:
“The Panel notes the unusual nature of the present proceeding, and that the proceeding may have had a different outcome had the proceeding commenced against the intended seller or purchaser of the Domain Name, rather than at the precise time where the Domain Name was being held in escrow. In the event that further information arises that suggests the motives of Respondent acquiring the Domain Name was to protect the previous owner of the Domain Name from the consequences of a decision under the Policy, or if the Domain Name is transferred from Respondent, either to the earlier registrant, or to a third party who (based on the publication of this decision alone) may acquire the Domain Name in awareness that the Domain Name had been hijacked from Complainant, there may be grounds to consider a refiled complaint, subject to the applicable criteria. “
It will be interesting to see what happens with this domain name moving forward given the circumstances.