Different from domain hijacking (the act of changing the registration of a domain name without the permission of the original registrant), Reverse Domain Name Hijacking (“RDNH”) “occurs where a trademark owner attempts to secure a domain name by making false cybersquatting claims against a domain name’s rightful owner.” Under the ICANN’s Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (“UDRP”) Rules, RDNH means “using the Policy in bad faith to attempt to deprive a registered domain-name holder of a domain name.”
The UDRP was developed to assist trademark owners in regaining domain names that had been cybersquatted in bad faith. However, some trademark owners – typically large companies or famous individuals with deep pockets – have viewed the UDRP as an easier means than litigation to gain control over domain names that incorporate their trademark. World Intellectual Property Organization (“WIPO”) panels are apt to find RDNH in instances where the domain name registration predates the trademark; where there is no evidence of bad faith registration; or where the UDRP is used as a back-up for failed business negotiations.
RDNH has increased significantly in recent years. One famous example of RDNH was in 2013 against politician Ron Paul when he attempted to utilize the UDRP to secure RonPaul.com and RonPaul.org, websites actually registered and owned by avid Ron Paul supporters. As the owner of the RON PAUL trademark, Ron Paul alleged that the website registrants had tried to sell the domains to him for an “exorbitant” price and were selling merchandise. WIPO denied Ron Paul’s complaint and found that him guilty of RDNH because there was evidence that the website registrants had actually offered the RonPaul.org domain to Ron Paul for free and that the registrants’ use of the domains was noncommercial fair use as a fan site. The registrants still have the domains today.
As a good faith domain registrant, you have a right to stand up against trademark owners who try to bully you through the UDRP process. If you believe that someone is attempting to secure your legitimate domain through RDNH, Traverse Legal’s Attorneys have the expertise to help you navigate the UDRP and WIPO process. Give us a call today!