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150 RDNH cases highlight flaws with the UDRP; identified as the 150th RDNH

2013 August 23
by Nat

The UDRP complaint against has the dubious distinction of being the 150th case of Reverse Domain Name Hijacking identified so far.

Five thoughts on this milestone-

1.  The problem of RDNH is getting worse.  The UDRP is used more frequently than ever to attempt to steal domain names from their rightful owners.

The early years of the UDRP saw numerous RDNH findings as there was little precedent to go by and many people were unclear about the limitations of the UDRP.  Then came five years of single digit RDNH findings between 2003 and 2007.  From 2008 on there were double digit RDNH cases each year and 2013 is on track to set the all-time record.

After 12 years of the UDRP we would hope that it is now clear that the UDRP should only for clear cut cases of cybersquatting.  We might be surprised that RDNH cases are on the increase.  The explanation may be that activist panelists keep meddling with the UDRP criteria in an effort to make it easier for Complainants to seize domains through the UDRP.  This encourages Complainants to file frivolous cases by appealing to the misguided logic of the rogue panelists.  We’re now seeing a surge in UDRP complaints filed even though the challenged domains were registered well before the Complainant had any trademark rights to a similar term based on a theory held by some panelists that the UDRP no longer requires that a domain must be registered in bad faith in order for a panelist to order the transfer of the domain.

The number of RDNH cases by year shows the trend:

Year    # of RDNH cases

2000       6

2001       14

2002       20

2003         5

2004         6

2005         7

2006        9

2007        6

2008      13

2009      11

2010      11

2011       14

2012       14

YTD 2013   14


2.  Some people might be tempted to say “150 cases over 13 years – no big deal!”  The big deal is that a finding of RDNH recognizes an attempt at domain theft.  These are companies that are trying to steal domains from their rightful owners.  It is not much different than a thief breaking into someone’s house in order to steal valuable property.

Cybersquatting is parasitic in that it attempts to divert some of the value created by the trademark holder – but it doesn’t steal property in the possession of the trademark holder.  404 parked pages practiced by the like of Verizon and other ISPs also divert value created by trademark holders for the benefit of Verizon and the other ISPs who offer 404 parked pages.  Parked pages on inactive domains practiced by the like of GoDaddy and other registrars also attempts to profit from misdirected traffic intended for trademark owners.  Google directly profits from searches for trademarked terms by selling advertising to competitors of the trademark holder.  All these are considered legitimate business practices.  Yet registering a domain to monetize traffic intended for a trademark holder is treated qualitatively differently and is demonized while similar practices are smiled upon.

The procedures to stop cybersquatting have given rise to a method of domain theft, that when prevented and identified, is known as Reverse Domain Name Hijacking.

3.  Panelists love to give the benefit of the doubt to Reverse Domain Name Hijackers, or refuse to make an RDNH finding even in obvious cases.  DomainNameWire and TheDomains, among other blogs, are full of posts about UDRP cases that are blatant examples of Reverse Domain Name Hijacking where the panelists refused to make that finding, or any finding about RDNH, even when the Respondent explicitly made a strong case for RDNH.  Panelists also come up with ingenious excuses for not finding RDNH when it is deserved, such as the Complainant was too ignorant, too foolish, too naive, etc. to have the bad faith required for a RDNH finding.

I have yet to see a decision in which a Panel refused to order the transfer of a domain with the excuse that the domain owner was too ignorant, too foolish or too naive to realize that what he/she was doing was wrong.

4.  The true number of RDNH cases is probably at least double the 150 identified as such for the reasons given above. For every case where RDNH was found, there is one or more nearly identical cases where RDNH was not found.

I’ve read a lot of UDRP decisions.  In case after case, the Complainant is going after a domain to which it knows it has no rights, either because the domain was registered before the Complainant had any rights to a similar trademark, or because the Complainant tried to buy the domain and is now using the UDRP as a Plan “B”, or because the domain owner clearly has a legitimate use for the domain, or because there is no evidence at all that the domain owner was even aware of the trademark holder.  Certain panels have found that any of these reasons are grounds for a RDNH finding.  Yet in the cases I’ve read, only a small fraction of the time does the panel make a finding of RDNH when the circumstances justify it.

5.  Extremely valuable domains are often the target of RDNH cases.  Completely worthless domains are usually the target of UDRP complaints.   Several million dollar domains have been the target of RDNH attempted theft –,, and are all arguable worth over a million dollars. Many other highly valuable generic domains have been the target of RDNH –,,,,,,,,,, etc. etc.

On the other hand, the list of domains ordered transferred through UDRP decisions is usually filled with domains that aren’t even worth the registration fee. recently blogged about 182 .org domains that target Hermes and 165 domains that targeted Gucci.  The cases pad the stats and provide good material for scary press releases from lobbying groups that profit from making cybersquatting into a big bogeyman.  Yet these domains have negative economic value for the cybersquatter and cause negligible if any economic harm to the trademark holder.

As a typical example, the last couple of days of WIPO decisions are filled with domains that likely receive no type-in traffic and are never seen by anyone other than the person who registered the domain and the lawyer filing the UDRP.  The high fees the lawyer is charging to the trademark holder will protect the trademark owner from a domain that will never cause a greater hit to the trademark holder’s bottom line than the legal fees charged by the attorney.

These irrelevant domains – an assessment based on no research and simply looking at the domain – include:

The UDRP procedures that are primarily being used to protect trademark holders from worthless domains that cause no economic harm are increasingly being abused to put in jeopardy very valuable generic domains.



7 Responses leave one →
  1. August 20, 2013

    Excellent article, Nat. And the disturbing thing is that ICANN refuses to do anything about it, or reign in rogue UDRP providers and/or panelists.

    When ICANN opened a comment period on adding ACDR as a provider, we made comments opposing that addition, until broader reforms were in place to prevent forum shopping, see:

    Others also weighed in (click on “Chronological Index” to view the comments of others, including Nat). Of course, ICANN failed to act. ICANN is too busy trying to enrich themselves and insiders via new gTLDs, etc., rather than deal with fundamental issues like due process and the protection of registrants.

    • Nat permalink*
      October 4, 2013


      Thanks for the comment. I apologize for the delayed response.

      I agree with you. ICANN is like a building owner that is transforming a small multi-unit building into a skyscraper while ignoring the fact that the foundation is cracking and can’t support the structure.

      I believe that even Fadi acknowledges that new gTLDs have been a huge distraction from ICANN’s core mission. The UDRP is a core foundation of the domain name system, built into every domain registration agreement, that lays out the limitations of domain name ownership, yet it has been neglected for the past decade. The UDRP has been allowed to mestastasize into a mechanism for depriving owners of generic domains of their rights – far removed from its original purpose to prevent clear cases of cybersquatting.

  2. August 23, 2013


    And now we see a continuing fallout from these type of inconsistent decisions as the same case is heard basically time and time again by different panels of the ICDR which has different panels handing down opposite decisions on objections brought by the same party to the same new gTLD’s

    • Nat permalink*
      October 4, 2013

      ICANN is demonstrating that consistency is not one of its strong suits – either in the ICDR or the UDRP. I think ICANN’s credibility will continue to suffer until it can develop a process that produces more consistent outcomes.

  3. August 23, 2013

    Can you imagine the embarrassment of owning a Law Firm which has had a ruling against it which says that you are not capable recognising when you and your client has no reasonable prospect of success?

    Are there any firms or individuals which more than one RDNH decision against them?

    The hidden dangers are more troubling; such as panellists who twist logic or even cite their own earlier decissions to justify their own biases.

    However unless a panellist has demonstrated a pattern of such behaviour over multiple decisions, without having the full submissions of both the claimant and respondent, in all but the most egregious cases it is difficult to be certain a panellist has demonstrated inexcusable biases.

    • Nat permalink*
      October 4, 2013

      There have been a handful of UDRP decisions that call the Complainant’s attorney to task for filing a complaint without proper basis, especially when the attorneys have previous experience with the UDRP. The most effective deterrent, though, is likely what Rick Schwartz is doing with his Hall of Shame by publicizing those found guilty of RDNH.

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