Whoa…UDRP Panelist Got This Case WRONG

Whoa…UDRP panelist got this case WRONG

A UDRP panelist just ordered a non-profit’s domain name to be transferred in a poorly reasoned decision.

Blue image with the letters UDRP

I’m shocked by a UDRP decision handed down by National Arbitration Forum panelist Darryl Wilson this week. It seems that Wilson got the case wrong, and this will deprive a non-profit of its active website.

Investigative Network, Inc. of Arizona filed the UDRP against Investigative News Network of Texas. The Complainant uses the domain name InvestigativeNetwork.com, and the Respondent uses the domain at issue, InvestigativeNetwork.org.

There may well be a legitimate trademark dispute between these entities. Maybe. The Complainant offers investigative services for law firms. The respondent is a non-profit journalism organization made up of investigative journalists. It describes itself as:

Investigative Network News & Documentaries, Inc. (“Investigative Network”) is the first of its kind nonprofit journalism organization to exclusively produce video & film based investigative content by experienced award-winning broadcast investigative journalists dedicated to uncovering and exposing abuses of power, corruption, betrayal of public trust by powerful elected officials and public and private institutions.

The two groups use a similar name and they investigate, although for very different purposes.

But one thing is clear: this is not a case of clear cut cybersquatting for which the UDRP was created.

I’m baffled by Wilson’s decision.

It’s clear that the Respondent has Rights or Legitimate Interests in the domain. Yet Wilson wrote:

The Panel here notes the WHOIS of record identifies the Respondent as “Brian Collister / Investigative News Network” and no information in the record indicates that Respondent was authorized to use Complainant’s mark or was commonly known by the disputed domain name. Nor does Respondent’s submission in this matter indicate any authorization was ever granted. The Panel here finds that Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in the investigativenetwork.org domain name as Respondent is not commonly known by the disputed domain name under Policy ¶ 4(c)(ii).

Wait. What? The non-profit’s name in Whois is literally “Investigative News Network” and it’s using the domain InvestigativeNetwork.org.

Wilson also determined the domain was Registered and Used in Bad Faith:

Although one may conclude that providing nonprofit information and educational services indicate good faith to some degree, those actions alone will not normally suffice to justify the identical registration of an established trademark and domain name of an entity that provides the same or similar services.

The net-net of this decision is that a non-profit is about to lose its domain name unless it files a lawsuit. This seems egregious.

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Author: Andrew Allemann

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