Respondent’s Infringing ‘Clover’ Domain Name for Payment Services Likely Targeted Complainant – ICA UDRP Digest – Vol 2.45

Ankur Raheja UDRP, UDRP Case Summaries

We hope you will enjoy this edition of the Digest, as we review these noteworthy recent decisions, with commentary from our General Counsel, Zak Muscovitch:

Respondent’s Infringing ‘Clover’ Domain Name for Payment Services Likely Targeted Complainant (cloverskypay .com *plus comment)

Complainant’s 2(f) Registration is an Indication that the Trademark Was Inherently Descriptive (sightandsoundfilms .com *plus comment)

Respondent Registered Domain Name Shortly after Complainant’s Trademark Application (mallofegypt .net *plus comment)

Though Within UDRP Jurisdiction, Complaint Fails Because No Bad Faith Registration in Former Business Partner Dispute (mercury .cash *plus comment)

Complainant ‘Candidly Admits’ Registration Was Not in Bad Faith (obmcertification .com *plus comment)

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Want a Firmer Grasp of Domain Name Investing? Read “Busting Domain Name Secondary Market Myths” (CircleID, February 18, 2021) 


Respondent’s Infringing ‘Clover’ Domain Name for Payment Services Likely Targeted Complainant

Clover Network, LLC v. Registration Private, Domains By Proxy, LLC / Support GDMSA, Global Digital Media SA, WIPO Case No D2022-2516

<cloverskypay .com>

Panelists: Mr. Assen Alexiev (Presiding), Mr. Adam Taylor, and Mr. Philippe Gilliéron

Brief Facts: The Complainant, established in 2012, is a developer of open architecture point-of-sale solutions for small and medium-sized business owners. In the quarter ended September 2020, the Complainant processed USD $133 billion of annualized card transactions worldwide under the CLOVER trademark, making it the largest cloud point-of-sale firm in the United States. The Complainant is the owner of the various trademark registrations for the sign “CLOVER” including trademarks in U.S., U.K., Switzerland, Europe registered as early as October 2012. The disputed Domain Name was registered on November 30, 2017 and resolves to a website offering an online subscription management service. According to this website, it allows users “to identify and manage payments made on one of its sites”.

The Complainant alleges that an investigation reveals that the Respondent owns over 300 domain names hosted on the same server, the majority of which are named after services relating to payments, and the associated websites offer payment services and indicate as contact the same phone number in the United Kingdom. The Complainant maintains that this activity of the Respondent in the same commercial market on which the Complainant operates is an attempt to exploit the reputation of the CLOVER trademark. The Respondent contends that the only part of the disputed Domain Name that is identical to this trademark is the word “clover”, which is descriptive of a herb or a common plant and is widely used on the Internet for various activities, and is also the name of a city in the United States. The Respondent adds that the incorporation of the terms “sky” and “pay” distinguishes the disputed domain name from the CLOVER trademark. The Respondent submits that its online business at the disputed domain name is legitimate and has been operated for five years. According to it, this business has more than 1,000,000 registered customers, has delivered more than 10 million orders and employs more than 50 people across Europe. The Respondent alleges that the disputed domain name is also a recognized brand with a good reputation in Europe.

Held: The Panel regards the word “clover” as a distinctive name to use in conjunction with payment services by the Complainant, which has various registrations around the world that were made several years before the registration of the disputed Domain Name. The Respondent does not deny its knowledge of the Complainant and did not provide an explanation why it chose to register the disputed Domain Name and use it for a website offering subscription management services. The Respondent provided no evidence supporting that its online business has been operated for five years, has more than 1,000,000 registered customers, and has delivered more than 10 million orders. The investigation report submitted by the Complainant was not disputed by the Respondent, and reveals this activity of the Respondent is in the same commercial market as that of the Complainant.

All this taken together leads the Panel to the conclusion that it is more likely than not that the Respondent knew of the Complainant when it registered the disputed Domain Name and that the Respondent registered it to target the CLOVER trademark in connection with services similar to the services offered by the Complainant under the CLOVER trademark.

Transfer

Complainants’ Counsel: Barker Brettell LLP, United Kingdom
Respondents’ Counsel: Internally Represented

Case Comment by ICA General Counsel, Zak Muscovitch: On its face, the Respondent’s use of a “CloverSkyPay[.]com”, which is significantly different from the Complainant’s trademarks, in combination with an allegedly robust business with “1,000,000 registered customers”, could have resulted in the Panel finding that this was really more of a trademark infringement matter best left to the courts. But the absence of supporting evidence demonstrating the alleged breadth of the Respondent’s business combined with the “coincidence” of the Respondent having selected a ‘Clover’ formative Domain Name – without explanation – for payment related services, apparently did not pass muster with the Panel, who ultimately determined that “it is more likely than not” that the Respondent targeted the Complainant’s trademark.

The civil standard of “more likely than not” or the “balance of probabilities” is of course the threshold that must be met in the UDRP, but this does not always equate with certitude. Sometimes a Panel after reviewing the evidence will come to the conclusion that although they cannot be certain that a respondent targeted a complainant; it is simply more probable than not; a test which need not amount to more than 50.1% likelihood. In other words, in a given case where a Panel climbs the civil standard only minimally as far as it is required to, the Panel may itself believe that there is a 49.9% chance that it got it wrong. Although it may be technically and legally correct within the context of civil disputes generally, the application of a standard where the improbability nearly approaches the degree of probability, does give rise to the question of whether the UDRP requires something more.

This “something more” has to do with the nature of the dispute. The Second Staff Report on UDRP (24 October 1999) has been likened to the legislative history of the UDRP, and states as follows:

“The fact that the policy’s administrative dispute-resolution procedure does not extend to cases where a registered domain name is subject to a legitimate dispute (and may ultimately be found to violate the challenger’s trademark) is a feature of the policy, not a flaw. The policy relegates all “legitimate” disputes – such as those where both disputants had longstanding trademark rights in the name when it was registered as a domain name – to the courts.”

The nature of the dispute will often govern when it is appropriate for a Panel to resolve a case pursuant to the UDRP, and where the nature of the dispute involves a “legitimate dispute”, a Panel should not resolve it at all, regardless of whether the Panel believes that it is “more probable than not” that a particular party deserves to succeed.

But what qualifies as a “legitimate dispute”? In the often-cited case of Love v. Barnett, FA 944826 (Nat. Arb. Forum May 14, 2007), the Panel denied the complaint while citing the Final Report of the WIPO Internet Domain Name Process (April 30, 1999), stating that the scope of the UDRP procedure “is limited so that it is available only in respect of deliberate, bad faith, abusive, domain name registrations or “cybersquatting” and is not applicable to disputes between parties with competing rights acting in good faith”. Accordingly, “competing rights by parties acting on good faith” seems to be the right general yardstick to employ. Where a Panel determines that the case involves such competing rights of parties acting in good faith, the imperative that a Panel not resolve a case overrides the otherwise applicable civil standard of balance of probabilities. Unlike civil proceedings generally, the UDRP requires certain kinds of cases to be dismissed, regardless of whether a particular Panel may be able to determine the outcome on a balance of probabilities. In this sense, the UDRP effectively has a more stringent threshold in some cases, than the usual civil standard.

As noted by WIPO Panelist and Law Professor Lawrence Nodine in an article published for WIPO’s Advisory Committee on Enforcement (Tenth Session, Geneva, November 23 to 25, 2015):

“Especially in a dispute system which is mandatory for the defending party, it is vital for the credibility and enforceability of the results that they be as uncontroversial as possible.  This purpose is served by the UDRP’s limitation to clear cases of bad-faith behavior.  The system is not designed to address claims against Respondents which, for example, have legitimate competing trademark rights, but rather aims to resolve clear cases of cybersquatting, which preserves fairness.”

The focus on “clear cases” and “uncontroversial” outcomes is the key for the important reasons cited above by Professor Nodine. Where a party succeeds by the thinnest of margins on a “balance of probabilities”, it likely does not qualify as “clear” or “uncontroversial”. Fortunately, the UDRP is but one layer of procedure available to a complainant for enforcement of its alleged rights. The courts remain available to a complainant even where the UDRP is unable to provide a resolution and are better equipped to resolve the kind of case that a Panel should defer.

Chief amongst those classes of cases that a court is better equipped to resolve and therefore should be deferred by a Panel, is where the outcome depends on an assessment of a party’s credibility. Courts are of course far better equipped to assess credibility with their more robust procedures and safeguards, including discovery, cross-examinations, and oral hearings. Nevertheless, as Gerald Levine notes in his Chapter on the “Role of Credibility in a UDRP Proceeding” (Domain Name Arbitration, Second Edition, 2019);

“Credibility should not be discounted in determining a party’s rights even in a paper proceeding such as the UDRP. A party’s submission will be judged by its candor or lack of it, the plausibility of its arguments, its statements or silences and the evidence that it produces, withholds, or suppresses.”

For example, in Kampachi Worldwide Holdings, LP v. Registration Private, Domains by Proxy, LLC / Robin Coonen, Blue Ocean Mariculture, LLC, WIPO Case No. D2021-0371 (KingKampachi[.]com), which was a dispute between two fish sellers, the Panel determined that the Respondent’s actions “smell fishy”. Although the disputed domain name was registered before the Complainant had trademark rights, the Respondent provided no explanation of why it registered the Domain Name and the circumstances “strongly suggest[ed]” that the Respondent had “some kind of inside knowledge of the Complainant’s brand selection plans and nascent trademark rights”. The Panel noted that, “the Respondent’s selection of domain names identical to four of the prospective brand names generated through Complainant’s market study simply seems too extraordinary to be a mere coincidence”. In such circumstances, a Panel may be able to satisfactorily assess the credibility of a party’s position while not inappropriately retaining jurisdiction of a case, and thereby reach an “uncontroversial” outcome on a “clear case”.

But in other circumstances, a Panel cannot satisfactorily assess the credibility of a party’s position and the case should be deferred to the courts, provided that it is a legitimate dispute between parties acting in good faith. As noted by Gerald Levine in his aforementioned treatise, citing Coty Deutschland GmbH v. PrivacyProtect.org / Mr. Domain Admin / Peter Colman / Tom Marks, WIPO Case No. D2013-1914 (<rimmel[.]com>, Panelist Richard Lyon); “the Policy requires the Panel to act on the evidence, not suspicion or suggestion”:

“The Panel is troubled by the possible cyberflight, concealed identity, unexplained ownership transfers, and incomplete information furnished to the Registrar. Such monkey business does, as the Complainant asserts, raise a suspicion that the Respondent has been less than candid with the Panel, and that the omissions are material to this dispute. The Policy, however, requires the Panel to act on the evidence, not suspicion or suggestion.

This is not to fault the Complainant for failure properly to support its charges; on the contrary, the Complainant has done a thorough and commendable job of scouring the public record for proof. With no power to compel testimonial or documentary evidence and under a Policy and Rules that in the interest of an expedited procedure for a limited class of disputes severely limit the ability of parties and the Panel to investigate, however, this Panel believes that anything beyond what was requested in Procedural Order No. 1 would exceed his limited brief under the Policy.”  

This brings us back to the case at hand, involving <cloverskypay .com>. Was this a clear and uncontroversial case where the Panel was able to satisfactorily resolve the dispute because it was simply unbelievable that the Respondent selected the Domain Name without an intention of targeting the Complainant like in KingKampachi[.]com? Or was this a case which involved competing rights by parties acting in good faith and amounted to a trademark dispute which should have been deferred to the courts for resolution, despite suspicions, like in <rimmel.com>?

Here, the Panel apparently found it unbelievable that the Respondent just happened to adopt a Domain Name corresponding to the Complainant’s well-established mark for payment services, particularly in light of the fact that the Respondent provided no explanation for its adoption of the Domain Name, failed to provide support for its alleged substantial business, and was the registrant of many other domain names related to payments. One cannot help but wonder if a Procedural Order would have been appropriate in order to attempt to elicit the evidentiary support that the Panel found lacking, as without this evidence it may turn out that the Respondent did in fact have a substantial business even if was possibly infringing the Complainant’s trademark rights. On the other hand, the need for a Procedural Order can also sometimes be a hallmark of a case that is not suitable for adjudication under the UDRP and therefore should be used sparingly (a topic for another day).

It may very well be that as the Panel stated, it was “more likely than not” that the Respondent targeted the Complainant in this case, however in the circumstances one cannot help but wonder whether a simple “balance of probabilities” test was inadequate in this case given that it may be a case of competing rights between parties acting in good faith, even if one party’s case appears superior, and is therefore best left to the courts. I suspect however, that with the record that this experienced and esteemed Panel had before it (and which is unavailable to us), the Panel was able to have a high degree of confidence in their determination, chiefly because it seems very unlikely that the Respondent, who evidently is well acquainted with the payment business, would just happen to adopt a Domain Name comprising the Complainant’s payment brand, and fail to explain why it did so. That being said, the question remains whether this case is best characterized and treated as a trademark infringement case, or as a cybersquatting case. The often fine line between the two is something I look forward to discussing in another issue of the Digest.


Complainant’s 2(f) Registration is an Indication that the Trademark Was Inherently Descriptive

Sight and Sound Ministries, Inc. v. Philip Harbuck, Sight&Sound Films, WIPO Case No. D2022-3119

<sightandsoundfilms .com>

Panelist: Mr. Phillip V. Marano

Brief Facts: The Complainant owns and operates a theatrical services company that since 1975 has been in the business of performing, producing, and recording live public theatre events and productions related to Christian religious stories. The Complainant offers its services through its official <sight-sound .com> domain name and website. The Complainant owns valid registrations in the United States, including for SIGHT & SOUND, with the earliest priority dating back to September 1, 1975. On May 27, 2022, the Complainant filed a US trademark application for SIGHT & SOUND FILMS on an intent-to-use basis. Each standard character trademark cited by Complainant was filed on the basis of acquired distinctiveness under Section 2(f) of the Lanham Act.

The Respondent registered the disputed Domain Name on October 22, 2014 and it redirects to the <philipdangerfilms .com> domain name, which advertises “heirloom wedding films” and includes several sample wedding films made by the Respondent as well as contact information for the Respondent. The Complainant alleges that the “Respondent’s registration… creates a likelihood of confusion with the Complainant’s registered and common law marks and creates an inference of affiliation with or endorsement of the Respondent’s website, goods and services, when none exists”.

Held: The evidence does not contain anything to suggest that the Respondent specifically targeted the Complainant or its SIGHT & SOUND trademark. Rather, it seems to the Panel that the Respondent likely selected the terms “sight” and “sound” to describe Respondent’s wedding videography services.

Complainant’s 2(f) registrations are an indication that the SIGHT & SOUND trademarks were considered descriptive even if they have by now acquired distinctiveness for trademark registration purposes. The bulk of the evidence offered by the Complainant focused on 2020 to the present day, leaving the Panel without much information or evidence applicable to the Respondent’s initial registration and use of the disputed Domain Name on October 22, 2014 or through the intervening years. Thus, it is unclear whether, or the extent to which, the Complainant’s SIGHT & SOUND trademarks were well-known in 2014.

Therefore, the Panel is not convinced that the Respondent had the Complainant’s SIGHT & SOUND trademark in mind when the Respondent registered the disputed Domain Name, or that the Respondent registered the disputed Domain Name in order to exploit and profit from the Complainant’s trademark rights. The Panel finds that the Complainant does not satisfy its burden of demonstrating that the Respondent registered and used the disputed Domain Names in bad faith seeking to profit from and exploit the Complainant’s trademark rights.

Complaint Denied

Complainants’ Counsel: Gibbel Kraybill & Hess LLP, United States
Respondents’ Counsel: No Response

 Case Comment by ICA General Counsel, Zak Muscovitch: As written about in last week’s Digest, Volume 2.44, in connection with the BaseBallCoachTraining[.]com case, cases involving Section 2(f) trademarks (acquired distinctiveness), often require special attention by Panelists. To his credit in this case, Panelist Phillip Marano admirably identified this important issue and wrote an incredibly well reasoned decision. Kudos to Panelist Marano for his excellent work in this case.


Respondent Registered Domain Name Shortly after Complainant’s Trademark Application

Majid Al Futtaim Properties LLC v. Khaled Saleh, WIPO Case No. D2022-3547

<mallofegypt .net>

Panelist: Mr. Willem J. H. Leppink

Brief Facts: The Complainant, founded in 1992, is a leading shopping mall, retail and leisure group, with activities across the Middle East and North Africa. The Complainant owns and operates 29 shopping malls, 13 hotels and three mixed-use communities including the Mall of the Emirates, the Mall of Egypt, the Mall of Oman and the City Centre malls. The Complainant owns registrations in Egypt for the trademark MALL OF EGYPT in Latin and Arabic scripts, that include trademarks registered on May 4, 2009 and on August 19, 2009 (filed on February 27, 2007).  The Complainant is also the owner of several registrations in the region for the “MALL OF” brand. The Mall of Egypt opened in 2017. The disputed Domain Name was registered on November 10, 2007. At the time of filing the Complaint, the Domain Name resolved to a parked page, inter alia with some sponsored pay-per-click (“PPC”) links to Tours and Hotels in Egypt (“Website”).

The Complainant alleges that the disputed Domain Name was registered in bad faith and it is implausible that the Respondent was unaware of the Complainant’s well-known “MALL OF” trademarks when he registered the disputed Domain Name, under which it’s operating since 2005. The Respondent did not formally reply to the Complainant’s contentions. However, the Respondent sent an email stating, “I want to renew my domain mallofegypt .net as I have owned this domain since 2007 before any business started in Egypt by this name about 8 years.”

Held: The Respondent points out that the registration of the Domain Name took place before the Complainant opened the Mall of Egypt in 2017. However, the Panel notes that the Respondent did not provide any explanation for its registration. Further, given the notoriety and magnitude of the Mall of the Emirates, as substantiated by the Complainant, and the fact that the Complainant applied for the registration of the Trademark in early 2007, several months before the registration of the Domain Name, the Panel finds that on a balance of probabilities, the Respondent must have registered the Domain Name, having the Complainant and/or its Trademark in mind and thus anticipated on the opening of the Mall of Egypt.

The Domain Name resolved to a PPC website that included sponsored links to third party sites that offered, inter alia, Tours and Hotels in Egypt. The Panel notes the nature of the Domain Name, which is identical to the Trademark, the timing and circumstances of the registration, namely a few months after the Complainant, filed an application for the Trademark in Egypt, and the lack of an explanation for the Respondent’s choice. The circumstances of the case leads the Panel to consider for the purposes of the Policy that, on the balance of probabilities, the disputed Domain Name has been registered and used in bad faith.

Transfer

Complainants’ Counsel: Talal Abu Ghazaleh Legal, Egypt
Respondents’ Counsel: Self-represented

Case Comment by ICA General Counsel, Zak Muscovitch: I will regrettably have to only briefly comment on this case as I spent my time commenting upon the Clover case above. But here, we have a good example of a case that is comparable to the fishy KingKampachi case referred to above, in that the Panelist concluded that the Respondent must have targeted the Complainant’s nascent trademark rights.


Though Within UDRP Jurisdiction, Complaint Fails Because No Bad Faith Registration in Former Business Partner Dispute

ADVENTUROUS ENTERTAINMENT LLC v. Marco Pirrongelli, NAF Claim Number: FA2209002013597

<mercury .cash>

Panelist: The Honorable Neil Anthony Brown KC

Brief Facts: Having conducted such an assessment of the present proceeding, the Panel finds that the dispute between the parties is essentially a domain name dispute properly brought before the Panel under the Policy and within its jurisdiction. The US Complainant is engaged in the business of currency services, financial services and forex trading online in real time. The Complainant owns a trademark registered with USPTO for MERCURY CASH, which was registered on the date of its incorporation on May 8, 2018. The Respondent registered the disputed Domain Name on March 13, 2017, before the Complainant was incorporated. The Respondent, who was the Chief Operating Officer with the Complainant company, submitted his resignation on May 9, 2022 citing personal reasons and retained control of the disputed Domain Name. On September 9, 2022, the Respondent changed the nameservers which caused the website of the Complainant to stop working.

The Complainant alleges that the change in servers, left Complainant’s website inoperable, suspending its services, compromising the administration, logistics and internal control of the Complainant, and affecting Complainant’s workers, customers and its community and interrupting its communications. The Respondent contends it was not appropriate to transfer the Domain Name, as the Complainant owed him USD $78,000 and he kept the Domain Name as collateral in view of Complainant’s failure to pay commitments to previous directors. That is, he retained the disputed Domain Name to put pressure on the Complainant until it fulfils its obligations rather than to cause any damage or to use the disputed Domain Name for personal gain.

Held: The Complainant makes an allegation that the domain name was both registered and used in bad faith. However, it then strangely adduces evidence only related to alleged conduct of the Respondent after the registration of the domain name and, indeed, even at a later point, i.e., after the Respondent resigned from the company and after the parties had fallen out and begun their acrimonious relationship. The Respondent’s approach is also curious. It left out any evidence, if there were any, of good faith registration of the domain name.

The Panel’s assessment is that on the balance of probabilities, the Respondent registered and paid for the domain name as part of his contribution to the setting up of the company, at a time when the parties were harmonious and that neither party moved to have that arrangement changed at any time thereafter. That does not show bad faith registration.

The UDRP has as its basis the protection of trademarks and the deterrence of conduct that is inimical to the legitimate interests of trademark owners. Accordingly, if it is said that a person registering a domain name was motivated by bad faith in registering a domain name, which the UDRP requires to be proved by evidence, it must be shown that there was a trademark that the registrant was seeking to compromise or undermine. That clearly cannot be so if the domain name was registered before the trademark was in existence. If the domain name was registered before the relevant trademark was registered, there cannot have been bad faith registration. The present case is a classic illustration of that principle. The MERCURY CASH trademark was not registered until well after the Domain Name registration date. Accordingly, the Domain Name could not have been registered with the motivation of undermining or compromising the MERCURY CASH trademark as it did not exist at that time.

Complaint Denied

Complainants’ Counsel: Oscar Guilarte, Colombia
Respondents’ Counsel: Self-represented

Case Comment by ICA General Counsel, Zak Muscovitch: Again, I will regrettably only be able to briefly comment here. Notably, the Panel in this case undertook at the outset an assessment of whether the case was appropriate for adjudication under the UDRP (as discussed above in relation to the Clover case). This seems to be a prudent approach. This case is also noteworthy for the good recital of the principle that there can generally be no bad faith registration where there was no pre-existing trademark right (see above MallofEgypt case for the exception to this rule, concerning nascent trademark rights).


Complainant ‘Candidly Admits’ Registration Was Not in Bad Faith

901691 Alberta Ltd. v. Sarah Noked, WIPO Case No. D2022-1548

<obmcertification .com>

Panelist: Mr. Christopher J. Pibus 

Brief Facts: The Complainant carries on business in the field of training online business managers and virtual assistants and also offers programs to those who wish to train others for certification in this field. In connection with its services, the Complainant used the trademark CERTIFIED OBM continuously in the United States since 2009, and in Canada since 2010 and owns certification marks for CERTIFIED OBM in these countries, since 2011 and 2020 respectively. The Respondent is a Canadian resident who was employed as an online business manager and trainer in that field since prior to 2017. She was trained by the Complainant in September 2017 and entered into a formal OBM Trainer Agreement with the Complainant which included a licence to use the OBM trademarks in connection with the training of candidates for certification. On November 9, 2017, the Respondent registered the disputed Domain Name.

On February 23, 2021, the OBM Trainer Agreement was terminated as issues arose between the parties with respect to the quality of the Respondent’s certification services. On May 5, 2021 and August 31, 2021, the Complainant’s counsel sent notice to the Respondent listing a number of post-termination obligations, including the cessation of use of the OBM trademarks and the disputed Domain Name. On November 4, 2021, the Respondent renewed the disputed Domain Name and redirected to her website at <obmschool .com>. The Respondent continues to offer training services along with what she calls OBM School Certification for online business managers. The Respondent did not file a formal response. However, the Respondent did file a response to Panel Procedural Order and submits that in determining bad faith under the Policy the relevant point of enquiry occurs at registration, not renewal.

Held: The agreement between the Complainant and the Respondent ended abruptly in early 2021. Contentious issues could not be resolved and the Respondent began carrying on a competitive business while continuing to use the disputed Domain Name. Although the agreement did not specifically address Domain Names, it did contain post-termination provisions that appear to prohibit the use of the Complainant’s intellectual property (which arguably includes domain names of a confusingly similar nature). There is therefore some basis for the Panel to conclude the Respondent engaged in bad faith use of the disputed Domain Name in the period after February 2021. However, the Complainant’s submissions are more problematic when the issue of bad faith registration is considered.

The Complainant candidly admits that the original registration was made in the context of the intellectual property license and the Complainant therefore “does not believe that the original registration was done in bad faith.” Otherwise, the Complainant’s arguments are entirely framed around the notion that the relevant date for evaluating the Respondent’s conduct is the date of the renewal of the disputed Domain Name in November 2021. The Panel draws attention to the consensus view set out in WIPO Overview 3.0, section 3.9, which confirms that “panels have found that mere renewal of a domain name registration by the same registrant is insufficient to support a finding of registration in bad faith.” Therefore, based on the available record and in particular the Complainant’s admission that it does not believe the registration was made in bad faith, the Panel finds that the Complainant has failed to satisfy the requirements of the Policy.

Complaint Denied

Complainants’ Counsel: Law Office of Autumn Witt Boyd, PLLC, USA
Respondents’ Counsel: Self-represented

Case Comment by ICA General Counsel, Zak Muscovitch: This well written decision by Panelist Christopher Pibus is worth making a note of and keeping for later reference. It provides an excellent analysis of issues arising from licensing arrangements gone bad, along with helpful references on the related issue of bad faith registration, noting for example, that where the disputed domain name is registered while a franchise or license agreement was in force and in that context, it is very unlikely to have been registered in bad faith. The Panel also of course and to its credit, properly rejected the notion that a renewal is sufficient to support a finding of bad faith registration, when the domain name was registered in good faith to begin with. For more reading on the discredited theory of ‘renewal in bad faith/retroactive bad faith’, see “The Rise and Fall of the UDRP Theory of Retroactive Bad Faith” (Zak Muscovitch and Nat Cohen, CircleID, May 8, 2017).