Reverse domain name hijacking constitutes an abuse of procedure. On this topic, the WIPO issued on April 4, 2021 a decision reminding Complainants of their failings: it was their duty to proceed to relevant checks before initiating the complaint and to build their case properly. The examiner was all the more severe given that Complainants were represented by counsel.
The complaint in question was filed by three applicants.
First Complainant is an Indian company notably specializing in the manufacture and sale of sanitary products and kitchen appliances. First Complainant was originally known as Hindustan Twyfords, but later changed its name to HSIL Ltd. in 2009. Second Complainant, Somany Home Innovation Limited, was incorporated in 2017. It manufactures and sells, among other goods, air and water purifiers, water heaters, air coolers. Like Second Complainant, Third Complainant, Brilloca Ltd, results from the split of First Complainant.
Having detected the registration of the domain names <hsil.com> registered on November 16, 1999 and <shil.com> on December 9, 1999, Complainants filed a complaint with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center to request the transfer of the domain names.
Respondent is a UK registered company, established on October 7, 1998, which provides web development services to help small businesses gain visibility on the Internet, initially focusing on the health club and leisure equipment market. In addition to the main site « health-club.net », Respondent has registered a number of short acronymic domain names.
First Complainant owns trademarks for the sign « HSIL », the first of which dates from 2004. Complainants further argue that Somany Home Innovation is widely known by the sign « SHIL », the acronym that corresponds to its corporate name.
First and foremost, the panelist notes that the applicants have not submitted any evidence showing the use of the sign « SHIL » to the point of making it a distinctive identifier for their benefit. Therefore, the latter considers that they are in default concerning the proof of likelihood of confusion between the <shil.com> domain name and an earlier trademark in which they potentially have rights. On the other hand, the likelihood of confusion was recognized for the name <hsil.com>.
Then, regarding the issue of legitimate interest and/or rights in the domain names, the panelist takes into account the fact that Respondent registered the disputed domain names in 1999, before the alleged filing and use of Complainants’ « HSIL » and « SHIL » marks. As opposed to Complainants, Respondent has provided evidence to support its claims that the names were used as acronyms for « Sports / Health in London » and « Health / Sports in London ».
Besides, the disputed domain names were registered in 1999, many years before the filing of the HSIL marks and the registration of domain names containing « HSIL ». In addition, the Complainants have no trademark rights for the sign « SHIL ».
Also, Respondent has demonstrated a use of the disputed domain names in connection to a bona fide offering of goods and services.
The complaint is therefore dismissed.
In addition, the panelist found that the complaint constituted reverse domain name hijacking, an attempt to obtain a domain name by artificially proving infringement.
Complainants, who are represented by counsel, should have anticipated the weakness of their argument and the fact that the acronyms « Hsil » and « Shil » could not refer exclusively to them, as alleged in the complaint without any evidence.
The panelist also notes that Complainants tried to make it look like trademarks were rejected in India because of the « well-known status and enormous goodwill » acquired by their earlier marks. This, despite the fact that the defendant has proven that third parties have been able to obtain registration of trademarks for the sign « SHIL » in India.
The panelist also targets Complainants’ representative and denounces an « unfamiliarity with the UDRP » and raises the fact that the latter has listed the registrar as respondent simply because it had allowed the registration of an available domain name, even though it is not in its power to decide whether or not to allow a registration.
Source: WIPO, Arbitration and Mediation Center, April 4, 2021, Case No. D2020-3416, HSIL Limited, Somany Home Innovation Limited v. SHIL Ltd, Brilloca Limited v. GOTW Hostmaster, Get on The Web Limited, India