Lewis & Lin successfully argued for the return of over 200 valuable domain names that were hijacked out of our client’s account. We represented a Hong Kong-based domain name investor whose 224 valuable domain names were stolen from his registrar GoDaddy’s account after the Defendants hacked into his Hotmail email account to steal and intercept his personal information.
The unknown defendants appeared to be sophisticated Chinese-based hackers. After gaining control of our client’s domain names, they transferred them to various other domain name registrars, including one in Germany.
Upon our engagement, Lewis & Lin immediately filed suit in U.S. District Court in Arizona – where GoDaddy is based – seeking a temporary restraining order requiring the defendants to return the domain names to our client’s account. The suit asserted causes of action for violation of the Wiretap Act, the Stored Communications Act, and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, as well as common law claims of conversion and trespass to chattels.
We sought a TRO requiring the defendants and their domain name registrars and domain name registry to immediately record the registration of record for the domain names to our client’s name and into an account under our client’s control; change the DNS and MX servers to those of our client’s choosing; and place a lock on the domains to prevent further unauthorized access. Despite questions the court initially had about jurisdiction over unknown Chinese defendants in an Arizona court, and the court’s power to require GoDaddy, the German registrar, and Verisign (the domain name registry) to act, the court granted our TRO in its entirety. Three weeks later, upon the defendants’ default, the TRO has matured into a preliminary injunction.
The case is No. 17-CV-03294 in U.S. District Court in Arizona.
Lewis & Lin scored a victory for our client this week in defending his domain name against a trademark holder’s attempt to seize it.
The complainant, Tobam, a Paris-based asset-management firm, filed a complaint under the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy, arguing that our client’s registration and use of the
We argued that our client did not register and use the domain name in bad faith, but rather the complainant instituted the UDRP action itself in bad faith in an effort to “reverse hijack” the domain.
Under the UDRP, a complaining trademark holder can seek to transfer a domain name registered by someone else if it shows (1) the respondent’s domain name is identical or confusingly similar to a trademark in which the complainant has rights, (2) the respondent lacked rights or legitimate interests in the domain name, and (3) the respondent registered and used the domain in bad faith. Reverse Domain Name Hijacking is defined as “using the UDRP in bad faith to attempt to deprive a registered domain-name holder of a domain name.”
In our case, the complainant did not dispute that our client registered the domain name in 2004–yet the complainant was not incorporated until 2005, and only started trading under the “Tobam” name in 2008. Citing the long-established consensus view under the UDRP, the single-member panel of the World Intellectual Property Organization wrote: “when a domain name is registered by the respondent before the complainant’s relied-upon trademark right is shown to have been first established . . . the registration of the domain name would not have been in bad faith because the registrant could not have contemplated the complainant’s then non-existent right.”
Furthermore, at Lewis & Lin’s urging, the panelist concluded that the complainant sought to mislead the panel by omitting key facts about its failed attempts to purchase the disputed domain name, which demonstrated the complainant attempted to bully our client into selling the domain at less than its value. “This is a classic ‘Plan B’ case,” the panel concluded, “using the Policy after failing in the marketplace to acquire the disputed domain name” and thus “a highly improper purpose.” For these reasons, the panel denied the complaint and found Tobam guilty of Reverse Domain Name Hijacking.
If you are involved in a domain name dispute, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last week, Lewis & Lin received a decision from the National Arbitration Forum denying the claim of The Sinclair Group against our client, a best-selling author, award-winning scholar and global business consultant.
The complainant argued that it has had a federal registered trademark for RAPID TRANSFORMATION since 2006 for technical consulting services and business management consulting, and that it has been offering operations management consultancy services under the mark since 2004. It further argued that our client’s RapidTransformation.com domain name redirected web users to a website offering directly competing services, thus constituting illegitimate and bad faith use.
On behalf of the respondent, Lewis & Lin showed that our client was an internationally recognized expert on organizational and leadership transformation who has written five books on how organizations and businesses manage change. One of those books, “Rapid Transformation: A 90-day Plan for Fast and Effective Change,” was published in 2007 by the Harvard Business Review Press. We provided evidence that our client had been using the phrase “rapid transformation” as part of his global business consulting services since 2002.
We further argued that the words “rapid” and transformation” are common use, generic, dictionary words, and that our client registered the domain name for its descriptive significance—not to take advantage of the complainant’s mark.
A single-member panel of the National Arbitration Forum ruled in favor of our client. The panel found that although our client’s RapidTransformation.com domain name was identical to complainant’s RAPID TRANSFORMATION registered trademark, our client had established sufficient rights or legitimate interests to the domain name pursuant to the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy. The panel further concluded that the complainant failed to establish bad faith registration and use of the domain name, as is required under the policy.
The case is The Sinclair Group Nevada, LLC v. Tabrizi, FA1606001679802 (NAF Aug. 3, 2016) and can be accessed here. Please contact us if you have any questions about domain name disputes or the UDRP.
A federal court in Arizona today ruled in favor of our client whose domain name was stolen from her eNom account, apparently by a hacker based in China.
Our client, the plaintiff, is a domain name investor who registers generic and descriptive domain names that have value, holding them for development or possible resale. The domain name at issue was <640.com>. Domain names consisting solely of numbers have particular value in China due to their ability to transcend language barriers and provide for limitless usage possibilities.
The defendant appeared to use a number of different proxy servers to mask his true IP address, location, and identity in order to access plaintiff’s account and perpetrate the theft. After gaining access to plaintiff’s account with eNom, defendant transferred the domain to his own eNom account. By the time our client found out, the defendant had already re-transferred the domain to a separate account with GoDaddy. GoDaddy refused to return the domain name to plaintiff.
Lewis & Lin filed suit in U.S. District Court in Arizona (where GoDaddy’s is located), and subsequently filed a motion to effect service on the defendant by email, which was granted. Upon the defendant’s failure to respond, the federal court entered default against him, and then issued judgment. The judgment declared plaintiff as the rightful owner of the domain name, and further made the following order:
Upon Plaintiff’s request, Defendant YAN WANG; their officers, directors, employees, agents, subsidiaries, distributors and all persons in active concert or participation with them having notice of this Order; and those with actual notice of this Order, including any domain-name registrars, domain-name registries or their administrators, are directed to immediately record, change, or assist in changing the registration of record for the Domain Name in Plaintiff’s name and into an account with a domain-name registrar of Plaintiff’s choosing.
The case is Tai v. Wang, No. CV-15-01857-PHX-GMS (D. Ariz. Jan 28, 2016).
Lewis & Lin won a UDRP decision today for our client, AAC Enterprises, LLC, of Metairie, Louisiana. AAC is the owner of the ORACLE brand of automotive lighting products, including ORACLE halo headlights and headlight kits. Internationally recognized as a leader in solid-state automotive LED technology, ORACLE lights have generated tens of millions of dollars in sales since AAC introduced them to the market in 2005.
The disputed domain name, oraclehalos.com, was registered in November 2014 and used for a website ostensibly operated by an anonymous former distributor of AAC’s products. The website appeared to be a complaint site, but then directed readers to one of AAC’s competitors, whose products the former distributor claimed to stock and install. Lewis & Lin argued that such use was commercial in nature, caused confusion with our client’s trademark rights, and was done in bad faith.
A single-member panel of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) agreed. The panelist ruled: “the disputed domain name is inherently confusingly similar to the Complainant’s trademark and is being used to mislead Internet users into visiting a site criticizing the Complainant’s products and praising those of a specific named competitor.” In attracting Internet users by creating a likelihood of confusion with AAC’s ORACLE mark, and then attempting to profit commercially by selling competing products, such conduct constituted registration and use bad faith. The panelist ordered that the domain name be transferred to our client.