This is not what UDRP was designed for

A WIPO panelist lets a UDRP determine a complex business dispute.

The initialism UDRP for "uniform domain name dispute resolution policy" in black and blue on a black and blue background

A World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) panel has ordered the domain to be transferred in a UDRP decision. It seems that the case was a complex business dispute shoehorned into UDRP.

The Complainant pits a man who is allegedly the CEO of a company called CryptoSpace versus someone who previously worked for him at the company.

When the company acquired the domain, it ended up in the Respondent’s name. There was a dispute between the Complainant and Respondent and the Respondent left the company, but the domain was still in his name.

Ordinarily, this type of dispute would be denied because the Respondent “registered” the domain in good faith, even if he subsequently held it in bad faith. There are questions about why the domain was in the Respondent’s name and when that came to be (if it was when the domain was acquired or later).

Panelist Warwick A. Rothnie wrote:

It is no part of the Panel’s role to adjudicate on the rights and wrongs of business disputes between the parties. However, the Panel considers that the business dispute between the Complainant and the Respondent over the Respondent’s role in the companies, whatever the merits, does not give the Respondent rights or legitimate interests over the disputed domain name. As noted above, so far as the record in this proceeding discloses, the disputed domain name was, or became, an asset of Cryptospace LLC’s business, not of the Respondent. Nor is there any evidence that the company granted the Respondent a right to take a security interest over the disputed domain name or otherwise to assume trusteeship or possession of the disputed domain name.

And later:

As noted above, it is not clear when the disputed domain name became registered in the Respondent’s  name. If it was when the disputed domain name was transferred to Cryptospace LLC in or around January 2020, the Respondent has not provided an adequate explanation why the registration was put in his name. If the disputed domain name was transferred into the Respondent’s name at a later date, there is similarly no adequate explanation. Further, if the Respondent transferred the disputed domain name into his own name when the business dispute arose, the existence of that business dispute does not provide a basis for the Respondent to have taken control of the disputed domain name. In each of these scenarios, therefore, the Panel considers the Complainant has demonstrated that the Respondent registered the disputed domain name in bad faith under the Policy.

There are certainly a lot of unknowns here. Rothnie seems to think that none of them play in the Respondent’s favor. I’m not so sure. The Respondent makes a case as to why the domain was in his name.

At the end of the day, this is a complex business dispute. One better left for the courts.

If you need more proof, consider the “remedy” that Rothnie delivers in his decision. He notes that the Complainant, an individual, is not the registrant of the trademark in question. He issued a procedural order asking the Complainant to explain why, if the domain was transferred, it should be transferred to the Complainant as an individual and not the trademark holder. The Complainant didn’t respond. So Rothnie ordered the domain to be transferred to Cryptospace LLC, the owner of the trademark in question. How is WIPO going to handle that?

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