The Fine “Wine” Between Aggressive and Hijacking

Steve Levy ⬥ 18 November

A recent UDRP case highlights the fine line between aggressive trademark enforcement and reverse domain name hijacking. J Vineyard & Winery, L.P. (complainant) filed a complaint with the National Arbitration Forum (NAF) against David Perelman/Perloff inc. (respondent) over the domain name

The complainant in this case should have known that it was pushing its luck by filing this complaint. It does not own a trademark for the term JWINE, but it does own the J VINEYARD mark. The NAF panel was quick to address this in its decision to deny the complaint and to find that the domain name is in no way identical or confusingly similar to the complainant’s trademark.

While the panel did end up denying the complaint, it did not go so far as to find the complainant guilty of reverse domain name hijacking (RDNH), as alleged by the respondent.  I have seen that in the majority of cases, panelists are reluctant to find RDNH and this case is a classic example., The panel admits that the complainant’s case was “seriously deficient”, but that it also understands how the complainant may have felt justified in filing its complaint.

Here, the complainant got lucky in that the panel seemed to understand its motives for filing a complaint, but future complainants should be careful. Other panels may not be so forgiving and, like red wine, the stain of being found guilty of RDHN is not so easily washed away.

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