Gibson Guitars nailed for reverse domain name hijacking

Company tried to get through a cybersquatting claim.

Gibson guitars logo shows Gibson is stylized font with angle going up to right

Gibson Brands, the maker of iconic guitars, has been found guilty of reverse domain name hijacking.

The case, and the Complainant’s actions after filing the case, are real head-scratchers.

Gibson has a brand called Tobias and filed the cybersquatting claim against the domain

This sets off alarm bells right away. The bar for the Complainant is going to be really high for such a common name.

Insurance firm AssuredPartners Inc. owns the domain name. It acquired the domain when it acquired Tobias Insurance Group, Inc in 2013.

The domain is registered at MarkMonitor with a fully revealed Whois record. So if the Complainant Googled “Assured Partners” and “Tobias,” it would have immediately seen the connection between the domain and the company.

Assuming it didn’t do this research, it became abundantly clear that this case was unwinnable once Assured filed its response. Amazingly, Gibson Brands decided to double down instead.

Panelist Robert Badgley pointed to three things in finding reverse domain name hijacking:

1. Gibson Brands asserted that the Tobias mark is famous without providing any proof.

2. It would have been easy for Gibson to research and understand why the Respondent owned the domain.

3. Once it received the response, “it should have been clear to Complainant and its counsel, once they read the Response and annexes, that this case would not succeed.” Instead of trying to withdraw the case, the Complainant doubled down but failed to address any of the big issues raised by the Respondent and “instead offers flimsy and inessential arguments, such as the argument that Respondent is somehow in bad faith because it apparently did not have an assigned trademark from its own subsidiary, or that using a domain name for email only and not as a website is not a “use” of the Domain Name.”

This was an easy reverse domain name finding for the World Intellectual Property Organization panelist.

Bates & Bates LLC represented Gibson. The GigaLaw Firm represented Assured Partners.

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