This UDRP complaint has a couple of glaring mistakes.
I’m a big believer that you should hire specialists. And that specialty should be as specific as possible. If you are filing a UDRP cybersquatting case, don’t just hire an intellectual property attorney. Hire one who has specific experience with cybersquatting and UDRP filings.
I bring this up after reading the UDRP decision for universablockchain.com and universa.com. It seems that the Complainant’s lawyers could have made a much better case had they checked historical Whois records.
To be clear, I think the panel got the ultimate answer correct in denying the claims. But the case had a couple of miscues that could have also led to a finding of reverse domain name hijacking.
Universa Investments L.P. filed the complaint with the assistance of Shartsis Friese LLP.
Universa.com was first registered in 2001, but the current owner acquired it in 2018. The Complainants could have easily discovered that by checking historical Whois records. Had they just googled the domain name with “domain name” after it, they would have seen several stories from 2018 showing that the domain was acquired for $10,625. Universablockchain.com was registered in 2017.
The Complainant didn’t exist until 2007, after Universa.com was registered but before the Respondent acquired the domain. But it didn’t mention this in its original filing, allowing the Respondent to point out that the domain was registered before the Complainant existed. (In UDRP, the date of acquisition generally counts as a new registration.)
It wasn’t until the supplemental filing that the Complainant pointed out this date discrepancy, albeit meekly:
In the Supplemental Filing, the Complainant makes a comment that the Respondent was not the original registrant of the domain name. However, the Complainant provides no evidence that the Respondent acquired the Disputed Domain Names at a later date than the original registration date. This is especially confusing to the Panel as, if true, this would be a critical aspect of the Complainant’s case.
The Complainant obtained a court order in Florida in February 2019 against the Respondent, resulting in the transfer of Universa.io. The Respondent, who lives in Russia, says it wasn’t aware of that court case.
But the Complainant then makes a weird argument that the Respondent obtained the domains in the UDRP in an attempt to avoid the court order. This is impossible since he registered the domains prior to the court order. Again, this would be obvious to any attorney that understands domain names. There’s a good argument that this statement could be used as grounds for a reverse domain name hijacking finding.
Panelist John Swinson ultimately lets the Complainant off the hook for reverse domain name hijacking, suggesting that it merely didn’t know what it was doing when it filed the dispute:
The Complainant has not provided any evidence, nor has it even attempted to make any argument, as to why the Respondent knew or should have known of the Complainant or its future business operations at the time it registered the Disputed Domain Names in 2001 or 2017. The Complainant’s case is based on “information and belief” but without evidence or reasons. The Complaint does not set out any relevant information or belief that the Complainant relies upon to make assertions “on information and belief”. The Complainant’s conduct could be considered to be an attempt at reverse domain name hijacking, but the Panel does not reach that finding here because it is possible that the Complainant misunderstood the effect or scope of the Court Order and pleadings under the Policy (as different from courts where “information and belief” can be asserted prior to discovery).
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Author: Andrew Allemann