Morgan Stanley loses cybersquatting case

Panelist wisely considers all of the facts.

UDRP in red on a cream background

Financial behemoth Morgan Stanley has lost a cybersquatting dispute that shows the importance of panelists thinking about cases before deciding them, even when the domain owner doesn’t respond.

When Morgan Stanely files a cybersquatting case with the help of Cowan, Liebowitz & Latman, P.C., panelists probably think it’s going to a solid base. And if the domain owner doesn’t respond, it’s easy to check the box to transfer the domain.

But that wasn’t the case with at National Arbitration Forum, and panelist Nicholas J.T. Smith did a good job of applying critical thought.

Financements is French for finance. As Smith explains, there’s a good reason the registrant of the site probably registered the domain:

The Domain Name resolves to a website (“Respondent’s Website”) that appears on its face to be an entirely legitimate financial advice practice that trades under the MS Financements name.  This practice is run by two individuals, namely the Respondent, Medji Bamba, and an associate, Sarah Pascual.  There is an obvious explanation on its face for the use of the MS Financements name, namely that MS is an abbreviation of the names of the two partners (Medji and Sarah) in the practice…

For these reasons I am unsatisfied that the registration and use of the Domain Name was motivated by any desire to take advantage of the reputation Complainant has in its MORGAN STANLEY mark (or its abbreviation) as opposed to the use of the abbreviation MS as an abbreviation of the names of the two proprietors of the business trading from the Respondent’s Website.  

Smith noted that Morgan Stanely has trademarks for Morgan Stanley but didn’t provide any details of trademarks for MS. He also correctly noted that UDRP is designed for clear-cut cases of cybersquatting, and this was not a clear-cut case:

…The Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy is designed to deal with clear cases of cybersquatting, see IAFT International LLC v. MANAGING DIRECTOR / EUTOPIAN HOLDINGS, FA 1577032 (Forum Oct. 9, 2014) (“The objectives of the Policy are limited — designed to obviate the need for time-consuming and costly litigation in relatively clear cases of cyber-squatting — and not intended to thwart every sort of questionable business practice imaginable. ”).  This is not such a case.  The Panel finds that Complainant has failed to prove that the Domain Name was registered or is used in bad faith.

It seems that is a legitimate website run by an actual business. UDRP isn’t designed to take down sites like that. If there are trademark concerns, those need to be addressed in a competent court.

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