A UDRP has been filed against Circus.com at the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). The complainant in the case is listed as Circus Belgium. The case is WIPO Case D2016-1208.
When I first read about the UDRP on Domain Name Wire, I had to a double take. Circus.com is a very old dictionary .com domain name. In fact, Circus.com was created back in 1993! Based on some Whois searching I did at DomainTools, the domain name has been owned by the current owner for a long time. Because of corporate name changes and privacy, I could not pinpoint how long but I believe it is at least 10 years.
When you visit Circus.com, you can see circus-related videos and news articles. I do not see any advertising right now, nor do I see it listed for sale. NameBio does not have any archived sale listings for Circus.com, and I don’t have any record of the domain name being offered for sale. This shouldn’t even matter given the generic nature of the domain name, but I have seen some UDRPs filed after a domain name is offered for sale, so that is why I checked.
I did some searching to find out who filed the UDRP, and I believe the complainant is the company that operates Circus.be. When I visited Circus.be, the SSL certificate says Circus Belgium SA [BE]. On the homepage of Circus.be, it states, “Circus is a 100% legal and secure Belgian online gaming and sports betting website.”
To give you an idea about the value of this domain name, Estibot appraises it at $544,000. Although I don’t always agree with Estibot values, I would not be surprised if I saw Circus.com sell for $500,000+. It’s a great brandable domain name that can be used by a circus in the generic sense or by a brand. In fact, there are many brands that use “Circus”for their brand name or as a part of their brand name. To give you an idea of its reach, just have a look at various Circus ccTLD domain names. Many of them are used and I would imagine just about every one of them would also like to have Circus.com.
It makes sense that this company would want to have Circus.com, but unless there are extenuating circumstances that I can’t see, I don’t see why the company will prevail in a UDRP, and I would not be surprised to see a reverse domain name hijacking ruling unless I am missing something.
I will follow this UDRP filing and will share an update when the decision is rendered.
Update: The decision has been rendered, and the panel found in favor of the respondent. In addition, Reverse Domain Name Hijacking (RDNH) has been ruled.
Circus.be should get a better name like Circus.Game for $419, instead of trying to rip one off. Intense.
Hard to see how Circus.be would have any claim against the owner of circus.com. It is a shame that the circus.com owner is forced to devote considerable funds and resources to defend against what appears to be a frivolous and abusive complaint. We’ll learn if there is any substance to the complaint when the decision comes out.
In a ruling of reverse hijacking, the complainant should be responsible for the plaintiffs legal fees. I think this is a case where that would be fitting.
I mean domain owners legal fees.
Imagine if the person has to defend multiple udrp’s from different companies in different industries thinking they are entitled to the domain.
The #1 issue that needs to be resolved this year by the industry is penalties for udrp’s that are filed and lost.
Without it all a domain owner can do is play defense.
If I owned a lot of high priced valued names I’d have Berryhill and others on retainer just as an insurance policy until rules with penalties are in place.
“The #1 issue that needs to be resolved this year by the industry is penalties for udrp’s that are filed and lost.”
This alone wouldn’t fix the problem.
Panelists would have to be educated as well, otherwise they possible could limit the number of awarded UDRPs even further.
I’ll be shocked if this doesn’t get a Reverse Domain Hijacking rule, and if I were an owner I’d file a lawsuit for this frivolous attempt to steal my property.