Usually, when a legal action is brought in the margins of the UDRP proceeding, the experts refrain from any decision on the merits and invite the Parties to settle their dispute before the court. However, whether or not to make a decision on the merits is left to the discretion of the expert.
Here, the dispute is between Associated Newspapers Limited from the United Kingdom on the one hand, and a natural person from Pakistan, Mr Makhdoom Babar, on the other. Associated Newspapers, the applicant, publishes the Daily Mail and The Mail newspapers. The Applicant claims that in November 2019, each issue of the Daily Mail sold more than one million copies.
The Respondent, Mr. Babar reserved the domain name <dailymailpk.com> on February 22, 2019.
The latter has repeatedly requested an extension of the time limit to file a response to the complaint, referring to the Covid-19pandemic as a justification for this request. Finally, the Respondent did not file a submission on the merits but indicated that it had filed a lawsuit in Pakistan to block the UDRP proceeding. He provided a document mentioning the complaint and indicated that the next hearing would take place on May 22, 2020.
The expert points out that they has the power to either stop the UDRP proceeding or not, when there exists a legal action in relation to the domain name at stake. The expert mentioned that many Panels in this situation refuse to suspend or terminate the procedure to avoid an indefinite delay in the decision. Especially when the legal action was introduced after the UDRP procedure, with the aim of disturbing it.
Following these preliminary remarks, the expert notes that there is no guarantee that the legal action will resolve the domain name issue. In fact, there is nothing in the file to show that the defendants in the legal action have been served with it or that they have agreed to submit to the jurisdiction in question. Furthermore, the court has not taken any action following the alleged hearing on May 22, 2020.
In addition, the action has not been brought to court in Massachusetts, United States, where the Registry Office is located. Thus, the Registrar may not enforce the decision in Pakistan.
Therefore, the expert decides to rule on the complaint and orders the transfer of the domain name to the applicant. To do so, he takes several elements into account. Firstly, the Complainant and the Respondent have already crossed paths in the past, since the Complainant had filed a complaint against them, concerning the domain name <dailymailnews.com>.
Secondly, the site set up by the Respondent on the name <dailymailpk.com> bears strong resemblances to that of the Complainant, to the extent that it cannot be a matter of coincidence alone, but rather of a desire to attract Internet users to its site by suggesting an affiliation with that of the Complainant. Thirdly, no articles have been published on the site since February 24, 2020, the date when the applicant was notified of the complaint. Finally, the expert notes that, in view of the circumstances, the defendant could not have been unaware of the existence of the “DAILY MAIL” trademark, which enjoys a great reputation.
Thus, the legal action does not per se obstruct the UDRP procedure. Nevertheless, it should be noted that in this case the defendant was a proven cybersquatter, at the origin of the legal action, initiated after the filing of the UDRP Complaint and in order to obstruct this procedure. Experts tend to react differently when the legal action precedes the UDRP action and especially when the dispute is between former trading partners. It is therefore necessary to remain vigilant before opting for the UDRP course of action.