The UDRP PROCEDURE is designed to deal with cases of abusive cybersquatting.
Since the implementation of the General Data Protection Regulation and, more generally, when domain names are registered anonymously, it is often difficult to identify the enemy that we intend to strike.
The issue can be solved through filing a UDRP complaint. This is what happened to the US company Capital Distribution Consulting Inc. As the owner of the semi-figurative trademark Royal dragon superior vodka 5X distilled, the company filed a complaint against the anonymously registered domain name <royaldragonvodka.com>.
Once the procedure was initiated, the identity of the registrant was revealed. The latter was a certain Mr. X, who was an officer of Horizons Group (London) in the United Kingdom and the owner of the UK trademark Royal dragon vodka.
In fact, it turned out that both parties obtained their trademarks through a transfer carried out by Dragon Spirits Limited in Hong Kong, of which Mr. Bharwani was one of the shareholders.
This information gave rise to further exchanges between the parties, each accusing the other of having obtained the trademark unlawfully. In particular, the complainant argued that the transfer to the defendant had taken place after the liquidation of the transferee.
The facts reported in this decision are particularly complex and all-encompassing, which indicates that the UDRP is not the appropriate forum for this kind of litigation.
The expert reported that the complainant filed an additional response, which is not provided for in the Regulation, after the defendant’s response and then a second response 9 days later. This response contained 15 annexes, including a sales agreement, court orders, share transfers, a declaration relating to the liquidation procedure, etc.
The expert decided not to accept this response and consequently not to consider the defendant’s request to reply in case these submissions were accepted.
The expert pointed out that this case does not concern a simple case of cybersquatting but rather a competition matter, involving trademarks being registered around the world.
He noted that trademark rectification proceedings based on competition grounds have been granted or are still pending in different jurisdictions. Therefore, the domain name in question is fully in line with this broader dispute. The expert recalled that the Guiding Principles of the UDRP are not designed to settle all kinds of disputes that would have any link with domain names. On the contrary, the Guidelines establish an inexpensive and streamlined administrative procedure being limited to ‘abusive cybersquatting’ cases.
This decision serves as a reminder that it is essential to obtain as much information as possible about the disputed domain name that forms the subject of a procedure. For relatively old names such as <royaldragonvodka.com> being registered in 2011, valuable information can be found through consulting the Whois history of the domain name.
WIPO, Arbitration and Mediation Center, Case No. D2021-2871, Nov. 24, 2021, Capital Distribution Holding Inc. v. Hiro Bharwani, Horizons Group (London) Ltd.