I can understand why the Respondent was pulling his hair out over this dispute.
A National Arbitration Forum panel has found Florida company Gapardis Health and Beauty, Inc. to have engaged in reverse domain name hijacking over the domain name MinoPlus .com.
The Complainant offers a natural topical product called Mino Plus that it says aids with hair growth. The Respondent, Jose Rojas of Haiti, sells a product called Minoval Plus for hair regrowth using Minoxidil, the same active ingredient found in Rogaine.
Rojas registered the domain name MinoPlus .com and it resolves to a page that states, “This product is a fake…”
If you look at the two products’ packaging, it sure seems like Mino Plus has the same color and general package design as the Respondent’s Minoval Plus.
In addition to trademarks for Minoval Plus, Rojas has a trademark in Haiti for Mino Plus. Rojas said he got this trademark right after opposing a trademark application submitted in Haiti by an entity associated with the Complainant.
According to panelist David Sorkin, Gapardis Health and Beauty, Inc. did not disclose these pertinent details in its Complaint:
The Complainant identifies Respondent by name but does not indicate that Respondent is a competitor nor provide any other information regarding Respondent or his activities or trademark rights, let alone the fact that Respondent is the senior user of similar marks. Indeed, Complainant’s accusation of bad faith appears to have been carefully drafted to avoid referring to Respondent as a competitor, even though that is a condition of the applicable provision of the Policy. The Complainant also fails to mention Respondent’s rights in the MINOPLUS mark in Haiti, a fact which almost certainly would have been known to Complainant. While Complainant acquired the U.S. trademark rights in MINO PLUS subsequent to that dispute, the Panel notes that Complainant has the same physical address as its predecessor in interest, shares at least one director with the entity involved in the Haiti trademark dispute, and is represented by counsel in this proceeding. The Panel therefore considers it unlikely that Complainant could have been unaware of this prior history or its relevance to this proceeding.
Complainant knew or should have known that it could not prove that Respondent lacks rights and legitimate interests in the disputed domain name, and nevertheless initiated this proceeding in an improper effort to obtain the domain name. Furthermore, Complainant withheld relevant information in an apparent attempt to mislead the Panel regarding Respondent’s rights or legitimate interests and the circumstances under which the disputed domain name was registered. Accordingly, the Panel finds that the Complaint was brought in bad faith and constitutes an abuse of the administrative proceeding.
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Author: Andrew Allemann