There’s a peculiar UDRP filing at the World Intellectual Property Organization that I noticed last night. It looks like a UDRP was filed against the Viking.com domain name, and it is WIPO Case D2017-2174.
A Whois search shows that Office Depot, Inc. is the current registrant of Viking.com. DomainTools shows that Office Depot has owned Viking.com since at least 2004. It looks like Viking.com forwards to viking-direct.co.uk, which appears to be a separate brand from Office Depot. This Viking-branded website also sells office products, and based on the currency shown to visitors, my guess is the target audience is UK-based buyers.
The complainant in the UDRP is listed as Aurelius RHO GTM Development Limited. I had never heard of the company before, so I did a Google search to see why the company may have filed a UDRP, and here is where I was confused. According to this press release from 2016 published on Business Wire, “Office Depot, Inc. (NASDAQ:ODP) today announced that it intends to sell its European business to The AURELIUS Group.” Looking further down the press release in the section about Office Depot, it says “The Company operates under several banner brands including Office Depot, OfficeMax, Grand & Toy, and Viking.” There is also a Wikipedia page about Viking, and it seems to connect the complainant and the respondent.
A January 2017 press release on the Aurelius website says “AURELIUS Equity Opportunities SE & Co. KGaA (ISIN: DE000A0JK2A8) has completed its acquisition of the European operations of the U.S. company Office Depot, Inc.” This press release also mentions the Viking brand: “Boasting a strong brand name and a loyal customer base, Office Depot Europe operates in 14 European countries across three main activities and brands: “Viking,” Contract, and Retail.” I presume the Aurelius in the press release is associated with the Aurelius that filed the UDRP complaint, although the corporate names are a bit different.
Based on what I read, it appears that Office Depot sold Aurelius its European businesses, including the Viking brand. It also looks like Office Depot still owns the Viking.com domain name though.
This UDRP is very confusing to me. I did a copy/paste of the “Viking.com” from the WIPO website just to be sure it was not some sort of IDN domain name or a typo that I didn’t catch. This does not appear to be the case. Interestingly, in 2011, Viking Office Products filed a UDRP against Viking.org and lost the UDRP. The Viking.com UDRP appears to be more interesting considering the registrant and complainant.
Viking.com is a high value domain name, and there are a number of brands that would love to own it. If it is some sort of intellectual property dispute, it will be interesting to see how the panel rules on it. If Viking.com is the actual domain name in this dispute and not some sort of typo, this could be an interesting UDRP to follow.
Update: The UDRP was denied and the panel ruled that this was reverse domain name hijacking.