Misled panel finds reverse domain name hijacking


Panelist used the wrong dates in finding RDNH, but the complainant might not have known.

A single-member National Arbitration Forum panel has found Tupelo Honey Hospitality Corporation to have engaged in reverse domain name hijacking for filing a cybersquatting dispute against TupeloHoney.com.

Panelist M. Kelly Tillery found in the complainant’s favor for the first two prongs of UDRP but found that the domain name was not registered and used in bad faith. Furthermore, he found that the case was reverse domain name hijacking because the domain owner registered the domain in 1998, two years prior to the complainant’s stated first use of the term.

Actually, the domain owner of record change to the current registrant in 2008. Prior to that, it was registered in the name of someone in Alabama. Assuming there’s no explanation for this change other than a change of ownership, the registration date would be considered 2008 for the purposes of UDRP.

Domain owner Reggie King was represented by attorney Steven L. Rinehart. Rinehart has been admonished by panels for misleading them about when domain names were registered.

TupeloHoney.com is not the first case in which Rinehart made a misleading statement about registration dates (at least based on the UDRP provider’s summary of the case) and not been called on it.

This is one of the reasons complainants should hire a domain name attorney familiar with looking up historical domain ownership records.

Panelist Tillery wrote:

Complainant knew when it initiated the action that Respondent’s registration of the domain name predated its First Use of any TUPELO HONEY® mark by almost two years. That one undisputed fact was then and is now fatal to this Complaint and supports this Panel’s finding of reverse domain name hijacking.

In some ways, I think this finding of reverse domain name hijacking is still justified. After all, since Tupelo didn’t challenge the registration date, it must have thought that the domain was actually registered by the current owner in 1998, so pushing forward with the case showed bad faith.

Still, I hope that misleading dates do not force panels to call into question the information they are provided by respondents about registration dates.

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