About Seven Years Too Late

Steve Levy ⬥ 25 August

Ritchey Design, Inc., the complainant in this week’s UDRP decision, sells bicycle components under the RITCHEY brand and holds registrations for the RITCHEY trademark in the US, Canada, and the European Community for bicycle components.

The domain name in dispute is ritchey.com, which was originally registered in 1996 but was only acquired by the respondent in 2007. Prior to the respondent’s ownership of the domain name, its website featured pay-per-click (PPC) links to the complainant and ads to sites of its competitors; however, after the respondent acquired the domain name, those PPC links were removed. Also, the respondent has a history of having “been involved in multiple UDRP proceedings alleging typosquatting”, and the domain name is up for sale.

The panel issued a request for the respondent to disclose any relationship or connection with the original owner of the domain name. The respondent denied any connection, and the panel did not accept the complainant’s argument that the respondent may be lying since it and the prior owner list addresses in Vancouver.

Ultimately, the panel stuck to UDRP precedent that says the facts must be examined as of the time the respondent acquired the domain unless there’s proof that it’s the same as or related to a prior owner of the domain.

The decision states “There are other businesses out there using the “Ritchey” name and many people called “Ritchey” who might be interested in purchasing <ritchey.com> if they started a business. Upon examining the evidence in this case, unfortunately, the Complainant has failed to show that on the balance of probabilities that it was a Ritchey business in the contemplation of the Respondent at the time of the registration or that the Respondent has any link with the bad faith use made of the Domain Name showing knowledge of the RITCHEY trade mark for bicycles before it was acquired by the Respondent.”

Had the complaint been brought before 2007 when the PPC site was clearly related to the complainant and its competitors, this would have been a very different outcome, as it would have been clear that the domain owner, at that time, did intend the domain to relate to the complainant and not some other Ritchey business or family name.

Just as they would to avoid a laches (delay) defense, brand owners should act quickly when they discover a clearly infringing domain since there’s no guarantee that the facts of the situation won’t change if they wait too long.

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