The public dispute between hedge fund manager Bill Ackman and business magnate Carl Icahn over allegations made about Herbalife now includes a domain name twist, as reported by Bloomberg.
In December, Ackman made statements that the nutrition company is running a pyramid scheme and using price inflations and misleading sales figures to hide it, which he explains in detail on a website he created, FactsAboutHerbalife.com. At an investor meeting, Herbalife vehemently denied the allegations and accused Ackman of "mischaracterizing" its business. Icahn came to Herbalife's defense as well, sparring with Ackman on CNBC, and fellow hedge fund manager Daniel Loeb defended the company as well.
Herbalife also registered at least 10 domain names containing Bill Ackman's name, including TheRealBillAckman.com and BillAckman.net. The websites currently do not resolve, and it is not known whether or not the company has plans to host any content on them.
Now, someone has registered TheRealCarlIcahn.com and TheRealDanielLoeb.com. Again, the sites do not resolve, and registration information is hidden, but it would appear to another layer to the very public sparring match.
The domain name news does not appear to have had much of an effect on Herbalife's shares, as they have been on the rebound since Ackman's accusations first emerged, but there are unanswered questions about what the domain names will be used for. It remains to be seen whether or not any of the domain names will host content, but we will keep our eyes on them and update this post with any developments.
Accessing the mobile site for Forex.com, a site that facilitates trading opportunities in forex and other global markets, revealed some peculiar labeling. The image at the top of the mobile page reads "ForexTrader.Wireless," which is confusing for a number of reasons.
Most glaringly, .WIRELESS is not an established gTLD, nor is it even a gTLD that anyone applied for in the New gTLD Program; it does not exist. If the gTLD doesn't exist, the domain name can't exist, which makes navigating directly to ForexTrader.Wireless impossible.
Additionally, Forex doesn't even own ForexTrader.com, making the choice of branding the mobile of the site in this way even more curious. It appears that the use of ForexTrader.Wireless is purely aesthetic, but it certainly raised some questions.
The National Arbitration Forum (NAF) does not typically have to resolve family feuds, but that is what the body was tasked with when Reed Bousada filed a UDRP complaint against his brother, Jay Bousada, over the domain name Bousada.com.
The Complainant, Reed Bousada, alleges that his surname has been affiliated with a number of family businesses since the 1950's, one of which, Bousada Interiors, he is now in charge of. He explains that he hired his brother "many years ago" to set up the website for the business using the disputed domain, but his brother registered the domain in his own name instead and after allowing his brother to use the domain for the business for a short period, decided to use it for personal purposes.
Jay Bousada, the Respondent, contends that he was never paid for his services of registering the domain and setting up the site and that, because the domain is registered in his name, he has the right to use it for whatever purpose he sees fit.
The NAF Panelist who had to sort through all of this dirty laundry ultimately decided that the dispute is more of a business or contractual dispute than a UDRP issue and dismissed the case, suggesting that another legal forum could better handle the matter (perhaps they should bring this matter before their mother?)
This sort of family drama rarely sees the UDRP stage, but when it happens in cases like this one, it's clear that it is not the appropriate venue. Ultimately, the Complainant, seeking a quick fix, wasted time and money in choosing to file a UDRP case, which should be a lesson to all business owners facing similar issues.
Ah, if only I had a dollar for every time a cybersquatter suggested a business partnership with the brand owner in response to one of my demand letters. Ally Financial, the Detroit-based bank holding company, decided it was fed up with such games and has filed a suit under the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act (ACPA) against an Arizona man who attempted to profit off of domain names featuring the Ally name, according to a report by Domain Name Wire.
In its suit against Donald Jones, Ally states that he registered at least three domain names that used the Ally name, AllyBankLoans.com, AllyBancShares.com, and AllyNationalBank.com, and redirected them to VerteransNationalBank.us, which he owns.
Ally initially contacted Jones in writing, informing him of the bank's legal right to the domain names because of its established trademark, but Jones floated a "partnership proposal" in which he would only transfer the domain names if Ally agreed to work with him in a new banking venture. Ally rejected the proposal, and instead of handing over the domain names, Jones began redirecting the sites to the homepage of Ally's competitor Chase.
Ally states that Jones "attempted to engage in cyberpiracy" through his offer to sell Ally the domain names that it already had legal rights to. His intent to monetize these domain names that he had no claim to would confuse consumers and could cause Ally financial and reputational loss. In its suit, Ally seeks damages of between $1,000 and $100,000 per domain name, based on Court determinations.
Ally's actions in this case should be a model for brand owners suing cybersquatters. The company first attempted to regain the domain names out of court, but when it became clear that this tactic would be unsuccessful, it sued the cybersquatter under federal law and sought damages, something that UDRP cases do not provide.
As an experienced domain name lawyer will tell you, if some sort of contract exists between the parties to a domain name dispute, there’s a strong chance it’s not going to make for a successful UDRP case. The challenge in a UDRP complaint that pitted two Canadian grief recovery services against one another has only lead to pain and hardship for the parties. The Complainant, The Grief Recovery Institute, based in British Columbia, and the Respondent, Ontario-based Grief Recovery Institute, used to be business partners, and now the Complainant is attempting to win back use of GRIEF.NET and GRIEF-RECOVERY.COM.
According to the Complainant, the two parties began working together back in the 1990's, and the Complainant instructed the Respondent to register the disputed domain names under the company's name and have them redirect to the business's main site. Instead, the Respondent registered the domains under his own name, and in 2010, the Complainant noticed that the domains were instead resolving to the site of a different, competing grief counseling service.
While it is not clear when the business relationship between the two parties broke down, the current animosity between the Complainant and Respondent is evident in the UDRP complaint, as are certain attempts to discern the truth. The Complainant neglects to reveal that a dispute was filed in the Federal Court of Canada over rightful ownership of the domain names in this complaint, and that the dispute is still currently open. When the Respondent reveals this, he requests that the complaint be terminated.
The Respondent also raises the issues of laches, citing that the Complainant waited 16 years after one of the domain names was first registered to file this complaint, but once the National Arbitration Forum (NAF) Panelist learns of the ongoing proceedings, he agrees with the Respondent and orders that the case be terminated. If that wasn't enough, he explains that the contractual disputes that lie at the heart of this case do not fall within UDRP jurisdiction, dismissing the case on those grounds as well.
It's clear that the Complainant attempted to bypass the pending lawsuit and win back the domain names in another fashion, but the Panelist didn't fall for it. UDRP Panelists are experienced and have pretty much seen it all in terms of domain name disputes, so cases like this should be a reminder to use UDRP complaints for their intended purpose and not as a means to bypass other legal proceedings.
Veteran California Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein has been a staunch activist against assault weapons throughout her tenure on Capitol Hill, but a domain name featuring her name will soon tell a different story. Dimitrios Karras, the CEO of the California gun parts and accessories store Ares Armor, registered SenatorFeinstein.com and will use the site to promote gun rights, reports The Daily Caller.
The basic page already features articles supporting gun rights and links to petitions to charge Feinstein with treason, but the headline suggests that more content is coming, reading "COMING SOON! Senator Feinstein's Biggest Fan Page!" Elsewhere on the site, Karras says "gun owners strike back," filling what he thought was a void for opponents of Feinstein whose comments on official Facebook pages were often scrutinized.
Karras calls the registration and counterintuitive use of Feinstein's name "funny" and "an entertaining thing," suggesting levity, but it's clear that the matter is important to him. His business is based on the firearms industry, and new legislation against assault weapons, as Feinstein has promised, could affect his livelihood.
Karras registered the page in early January, along with domain names related to other politicians, including California's other Senator, Democrat Barbara Boxer. Because he is using the site as a gripe site and not assuming Feinstein's likeness, he is within his legal rights in terms of domain name ownership, and he sees this as a way to bring attention to the issue and allow both sides to discuss the issues openly.
This, of course, is not the first time someone has used a politician's name to voice a contrarian point of view, but Karras's move is especially relevant given the increased attention that firearms legislation is receiving following a spate of gun violence in 2012. His ultimate vision for the site remains to be seen, but Feinstein could have avoided this situation by proactively registering this intuitive domain name.
UDRP complaints involving personal names are tricky, especially if the complainant or respondent holds a trademark for the name in question. A German lawyer learned this firsthand when he filed a UDRP complaint against a respondent called Eighty Business Names with the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) over the domain name Lambsdorff.com.
Konstantin Graf Lambsdorff, a Berlin-based attorney who has practiced law for 20 years, owns a German trademark for the word LAMBSDORFF, registered in September 2012. He states that this mark entitles him to the domain name which, at the time of filing, redirected to a third-party website selling various goods and services apparently unrelated to the Respondent. The Cayman Islands-based Respondent did not reply to the Complainant's contentions.
Without a response from Eighty Business Names, the UDRP categorized the case as a default. In such cases, the Panelist must draw conclusions from the information at hand, and a victory for the Complainant is not assured. In this case, the Panelist found that the disputed domain name was identical or confusingly similar to the Complainant's established mark, but he could not prove that the Respondent registered the domain name in bad faith.
The domain name was registered in 2004, a full eight years before the Complainant obtained his trademark. The Panelist found no evidence that the Respondent knew of the Complainant at the time of registration, and although the redirects showed "some evidence of bad faith use," he found "no evidence of bad faith registration” and ultimately decided that Lambsdorff.com would remain with the Respondent.
UDRP disputes involving personal names are always difficult, especially because it is difficult for the Complainant in this case, not an internationally recognized celebrity, to prove common law rights to a certain name. The trademark filing helped in one part of the case, but it ultimately couldn't completely satisfy the Panelist. Any individual looking to establish a presence on the Internet should register relevant domain names proactively to avoid having to file a UDRP complaint.
New York-based startup Artsy has garnered attention from the media and investors for its Pandora-esque artwork discovery engine, but now issues with its Syrian domain name are causing the company problems. In the midst of the violent conflict in Syria, the company's principle domain name has suffered outages, and on Friday, Artsy announced plans to move operations to Artsy.net.
Founder Carter Cleveland had to endure a lengthy legal and governmental struggle to use the .SY extension, the country code assigned to Syria, to begin with. As detailed by TechCrunch, Cleveland was represented by a Syrian law firm in the country to help him deal with changing regulations and red tape from abroad.
In a press release issued Friday, Artsy explains that the company initially chose Art.sy, "because it is the shortest spellable English language domain that begins with the word 'art.'" The catchy name and simple domain name attracted media attention and helped grow the Artsy brand.
Now, however, Artsy might suffer from having chosen a domain name that was better for branding than operations. The Syrian extension brought Artsy significant attention, but it ultimately proved unreliable. With hundreds of new gTLDs on the horizon this year, reliability will be paramount. New gTLDs will present unprecedented domain name branding opportunities, but that is ultimately moot if they aren't stable.
Interestingly, Artsy.com is currently listed for sale by Domain Brokers, and it seems that it would be a wise investment for a company by the same name that exists solely online, especially after having to shutter Art.sy. Compete data shows that Art.sy hit a high of approximately 21,000 unique visitors in October, while Artsy.net is not even listed on the site. Artsy.com it should be noted, pulled just over 1,500 unique visitors in November, significant for a parked page.
For now, it appears that Artsy will exist solely on Artsy.net, but it will be interesting to see if the company ever purchases Artsy.com. How this situation will affect Artsy's traffic and business, if at all, remains to be seen, but it should at least drive some new traffic to Artsy.net.
Does owning a trademark for a phrase, regardless of its specificity, entitle the trademark holder to that domain name? That is, essentially, the question that Manhattan Center Studios posed when it filed a UDRP complaint against James Lawson with the National Arbitration Forum (NAF) over the domain name ManhattanCenter.com.
The Complainant is a well-known New York City performance venue called the Manhattan Center, a building that houses the famed Hammerstein Ballroom. The Complainant owns a registered trademark for MANHATTAN CENTER HAMMERSTEIN BALLROOM THE GRAND BALLROOM as well as common law marks for THE MANHATTAN CENTER and MANHATTAN CENTER. In its filing, the Complainant alleges that the Respondent's mark is identical to the common law mark and makes up a dominant portion of the official mark.
The Respondent registered the disputed domain name in 2004 after seeing it on a drop-list of soon-to-expire domains. He explains that he purchased it because he saw value in a name that referenced the geographic center of Manhattan, not because he knew about the Complainant's facility. He also argues that the term MANHATTAN CENTER is geographically generic and cannot be claimed by the Complainant, saying that if the Complainant could have obtained an official trademark for the term, it would have.
Ultimately, the Panelist ruled in favor of the Respondent and allowed him to keep the domain name. He determined that the Respondent had not registered the domain name in bad faith, as the Complainant's trademark application was merely pending at the time of registration, and the Respondent was not using it to promote goods or services that were detrimental to the Complainant's business.
This decision should be a lesson to all brand owners looking to file a UDRP complaint on a domain name made up of a generic term or phrase. If the Respondent is abusing the domain name, selling goods or services that explicitly reference a Complainant's business, there might be a case, but in a situation like this one, where the only evidence is the name, it is harder to prove. It is best to consult with experienced UDRP lawyers before any filing, but it is especially crucial in cases including generic terms.
Last week, customers trying to order groceries from New York-based delivery service FreshDirect were met not with the usual homepage but with a stock website from Network Solutions LLC. FreshDirect had let its domain name, FreshDirect.com, expire, leading to a service outage that prevented customers from placing orders online, according to Bloomberg.
Primarily an online business, FreshDirect simply forgot to renew its domain name, resulting in a lapse in service. Although regularly scheduled deliveries continued, and customers could place orders via phone, the outage certainly cost the business significant revenue during the holiday season.
While Network Solutions would not comment on FreshDirect specifically, a spokesperson did explain that the company has several methods, including reminder emails and automatic renewal options, in place to prevent service lapses.
FreshDirect's site is back up and running smoothly once again, and it has renewed its domain name through 2024, but this outage shows how crucial it is to stay on top of domain name contracts. For companies like FreshDirect that rely primarily on web orders to drive revenue, outages like this one can result in both lost revenue and traffic and negative press. FreshDirect has certainly learned its lesson, but this should be a reminder to other brand owners to keep tabs on domain portfolios to avoid similar issues.