Exxe.com dispute leads to reverse domain name hijacking finding

Luxury retailer tried to upgrade its domain with cybersquatting claim after failing to buy the domain.

The words "Reverse Domain Name Hijacking" in yellow on a black background

A Turkish company has been found to have engaged in reverse domain name hijacking (pdf) over the domain exxe.com.

Cetin Family Tekstil Gida Pazarlama Sanayi Ve Ticaret Limited Sirketi operates luxury retail outlets in Turkey and uses the domain name exxeselection.com.

The company told the World Intellectual Property Organization panel that it opened its first store in 1997, a year before the domain owner registered the domain. But it didn’t provide proof that it used the name EXXE back then, and it didn’t establish its web presence until much later.

It also admitted to having tried to buy the domain many times over the past 22 years. It provided one of the domain owner’s responses to those overtures that it wasn’t for sale, but they could make an offer he couldn’t refuse as evidence that he was trying to sell the domain to the domain owner for a significant price.

Panelist Steven Maier wrote:

In this case, the Complainant states that it opened a physical store in Türkiye in 1997. However it provides no evidence of the operation of that store or its trading name at that time. The Respondent registered the disputed domain name in 1998. The Complainant had no trademark registrations, or even applications, at that time and no Internet presence. The Complainant does not contend that the Respondent was or must have been aware of its use of any EXXE trademark at the date of registration of the disputed domain name, nor does it make any submissions as to why the Panel should infer that this was the case.

The Respondent cannot have registered the disputed domain name in bad faith unless he was aware of, and targeted, the Complainant’s rights in the mark EXXE (if any existed) at the date of such registration, and the Complainant cannot therefore establish that the disputed domain name was registered in bad faith.

In finding reverse domain name hijacking, he wrote:

In the view of the Panel, the Complainant knew or ought to have known that it could not establish any arguable case that the Respondent had registered the disputed domain name in bad faith, i.e., in the knowledge of the Complainant’s use of the mark EXXE and with the intention of taking unfair advantage of any rights that the Complainant may have obtained in that mark. Moreover, the exchange of emails exhibited by the Complainant indicates that the Complainant made a commercial approach to the Respondent to buy the disputed domain name without any suggestion that the disputed domain name had been registered or used in bad faith. The Complainant volunteers that it has made numerous unsuccessful approaches to the Respondent and then launched the present proceeding, having failed in its legitimate efforts to purchase the disputed domain name from the Respondent.

Arnold & Siedsma B.V. represented the Complainant and the domain owner represented himself.

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