How to lose a $175,000 domain name in a UDRP 2016-03-03
A company in the United Kingdom just lost a domain name it paid $175,000 for in a UDRP*. It should be viewed as a lesson on what not to do with a domain name that has both a generic/geo value as well as that of a brand.
Diversity Network acquired Halifax.com in September 2015 for $175,000 and then proceeded to make a series of stupid attempts to get Bank of Scotland, which operates a financial services company called Halifax, to buy the domain name.
Just days after completing the acquisition of the domain name, Diversity Network registered the domain names halifaxcarfinance.com and halifaxliving.org. The first of these names is squarely aimed at the complainant in this case, Bank of Scotland.
Diversity Network then reached out to Bank of Scotland offering Halifax.com for sale. It said it was preparing to use the domain names, and that it was receiving lots of emails about problems with logins to the Complainant’s service and added that this must be a security concern for the bank.
It then proceeded to create a site at Halifax.com titled “Halifax Financial Services Business Listings” with a message “We are Halifax.com the official financial services directory for the UK.”
Diversity Networks came up with a bunch of planned uses for the site that it conveyed to Bank of Scotland and/or the panel. Here, the panel summarizes these claimed uses when finding the domains were registered in bad faith:
The Panel cannot accept the Respondent’s case of an alleged good faith motivation as credible. In the first place, the Respondent’s assertions in the correspondence and Response as to its intended use for the disputed domain name halifax.com are various and contradictory. These are first that it plans to run the original directory site – the Panel pauses to note that this is the only explanation given in the Response – secondly, that it plans to use the traffic for starter sites or “drop ship” sites, thirdly that it plans to put the domain name halifax.com to public auction, and fourthly and finally that it was always the Respondent’s plan to use that domain name for a “gay fetish” website. A fifth use, not discussed by the Respondent in the correspondence, is the actual use of the website to feature various financial services in reference to the United Kingdom as outlined above.
The panel also found that the respondent, represented by UDRPPolice, seemed to try to confuse the panel with some of its evidence:
In seeking to understand the factual circumstances in this case and to weigh the evidence which the Parties have placed before it, the Panel has also found certain of the Respondent’s submissions in the Response unhelpful to say the least. The Panel is left with the distinct impression that the Respondent took the view that obfuscation, rather than clarification, would be the best way to address the Complainant’s case. For example, the Respondent states that following acquisition its website was “improved visually but continued its primary operation as a dual city directory”. However, the screenshot produced to evidence this is dated August 23, 2015, in other words pre-dating the acquisition of the disputed domain name by the Respondent. There is no evidence before the Panel that the dual city use continued for any particular length of time after the Respondent’s acquisition of halifax.com. Likewise, the screenshot produced to evidence an alleged bona fide offering of services of a premium package for businesses is dated January 11, 2016 and thus postdates the commencement of proceedings. The Respondent thus seeks to gloss over the period between acquisition/registration and commencement of proceedings despite the fact that clear evidence has been provided by the Complainant of the UK financial services directory incarnation of the website. These matters in themselves have a negative impact upon the Respondent’s protestations of good faith.
The three-person WIPO panel found that Diversity Networks did not have rights or legitimate interests in the domain names and that they were registered in bad faith.
As a result, Diversity Networks will lose the $175,000 domain name unless it files a lawsuit. That lawsuit against a major financial institution would cost even more money.
*Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy