Trying To Hijack A Domain Name

Provocative subject heading – but unfortunately it happens far too often these days.

When a person or entity doesn’t want to pay what could be deemed to be a fair and reasonable price for a gTLD (like a .com) domain name, they have the option of filing a UDRP – Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy.

Or if it’s an Aussie domain the process is called auDRP.  The auDRP is an adaptation of the UDRP (with some of its own rules and interpretations).

It costs the complainant money to file, but is far cheaper than legal proceedings through a Court. Where the other costs come in are through legal representation. Most complainants engage a law firm to prosecute their case. The Respondent in the matter (the person who has the domain) generally has to get professional representation as well. The outcome is usually determined speedily, and a decision is made to either transfer the domain name to the complainant; or leave the status quo. There is no award of costs.

Don’t get me wrong – these type of proceedings do have their place. If someone is brazenly cybersquatting a domain name (a bad faith registration), then a UDRP / auDRP is totally warranted.

Where Does “Hijacking” Come In?

Under the UDRP / auDRP, there is an option to make a ruling of Reverse Domain Name Hijacking – RDNH. This is where the Panel finds that the Complaint was brought in bad faith and constitutes an abuse of the administrative proceeding. There is no monetary penalty – it’s more a case of “name and shame”.

In the past, a lot of Panelists have been reluctant to award a RDNH finding for a variety of reasons. However, as domain names become more and more valuable, there has been a big increase in UDRP complaints. Some businesses will resort to any means to try and acquire a domain name (except it seems pay a fair price to the holder of the domain!). Panelists now seem to be finding their voice and awarding more RDNH findings.

Aussie Firm Engaged In RDNH

In a case publicised overnight by Andrew Allemann of Domain Name Wire,  New Forests Asset Management Pty Limited of North Sydney has been found to have engaged in Reverse Domain Name Hijacking over the domain name NewForests.com.

The panel determined that this was a Plan B RDNH, in which the complainant filed a UDRP after failing to buy the domain name from its rightful owner.

The Complainant was represented by Clayton Utz – that would have cost a pretty penny for no result! Ouch!

In the case at hand, the Panel considers that the Complainant is represented by a Counsel who knew or should have known, at the time of the filing of the Complaint, that it could not prove at least one of the essential elements required by the Policy, namely the Respondent’s bad faith registration, as the Respondent’s registration of the disputed domain name predates the creation and first use of the Complainant’s trademark.

What Happens Now?

I guess if New Forests wants the domain, then they’re going to have to pay a fair price for it. That’s what should have happened in the first place in my opinion.

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7 thoughts on “Trying To Hijack A Domain Name

  • Avatar
    November 25, 2015 at 11:01 am
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    this process is a con especially relating to dot com people who just dont want to pay use this process to steal for nothing have had a couple of these filed against my dot coms all without any merit and lately i have had a number of fake emails done in my provider header contact details and link which goes to a chine address so even when udrp is trying to steal emails are trying to steal have to watch everything as things are not always what they seem

  • Avatar
    November 25, 2015 at 11:04 am
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    Good article Ned. Shame on founder and CEO, David Brand. Sucks to be Clayton Utz Solicitors, who lost. Or maybe its a good thing for them, since a finding of Reverse Domain Name Hijacking could mean more legal fees. Should’ve just paid the $100k it would’ve taken to buy the name (offers of “at least USD 88,000” would have been considered) . Now it will cost them double, possibly triple.

  • Avatar
    November 25, 2015 at 3:54 pm
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    Beat this. I have had so many people try to scam AccommodationSydney.com from me that I had to change my mobile phone number! 8-10 NO CALLER ID calls a day. Big lesson learned… Don’t use your mobile phone number as your contact number for a domain name. I regularly watch thousands of hack attempts on two to three different domains a day. And like Shane says, the fake email phishing scams are getting better, but I haven’t been caught out yet and don’t plan on being caught out.

    If you want a domain name so bad that someone else has, if they won’t sell it at a good price or won’t sell it at all, change your business name! Changing business names is easy. Changing domain names is hard!

  • Avatar
    November 26, 2015 at 6:56 am
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    Unfortunately reverse domain name hijacking will only increase, as people try to steal valuable domains. We have already seen a couple of RDNH findings (including etg.com.au which was a textbook case of RDNH) under the auDRP this year alone, this is against a backdrop where previously there had only ever been about 3 RDNH findings over the past 15 years. Lawyers ought to know better when advising their clients about the UDRP or the auDRP. Except in clear cut cybersquatting cases (which are  decreasing over time) the auDRP / UDRP should not be used as a substitute to purchasing a domain name. Quite often a registrant will sell a domain for far less than the cost of  a auDRP / UDRP complaint.

    The best way to protect your valuable online businesses is to seek trademark protection.

    • Ned O'Meara
      November 26, 2015 at 7:26 am
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      @Erhan – good points.

      Congratulations on your “win” for your client on etg.com.au – well deserved. Also on hw.com.au – this time a law firm trying to get themselves a valuable domain without being willing to pay a proper price for it.

      http://www.wipo.int/amc/en/domains/search/text.jsp?case=DAU2014-0040

      Shame though that the panelists wouldn’t agree to a RDNH finding on that one!

    • Avatar
      November 27, 2015 at 9:43 am
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      Apart from ETG.com.au and HW.com.au, the only auDRP concerning a generic domain name since PetInsurance.com.au (that comes to mind) has been SchoolInterview.com.au, which like other three was a big fat FAIL.

      It would thus seem that foul-crying latecomers to the .au space are fast realising that they can’t reverse-hijack the name they want.

      Dozens upon dozens of high-quality .com.au names have changed hands privately this year and last, Docking.com.au (Feb), Cameron.com.au (June), CaravanParks.com.au (3-4 weeks ago) and CarInsurance.com.au (May/June) are four that come to mind.

      The former owner of CarInsurance.com.au paid $250,000 for the name, this is on the public record. So what did CarLoans.com.au pay for the name, given that their CarLoans.com.au domain name is separately valued at $703,000 in the company’s financial statements – page 27)?

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