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August 27, 2012

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Here's the The Lowdown from DN Journal,
updated daily
to fill you in on the latest buzz going around the domain name industry. 

The Lowdown is compiled by DN Journal Editor & Publisher Ron Jackson.

French Company Found Guilty of Reverse Domain Hijacking Attempt Against American Serviceman

While serving with the U.S. Army  in Japan back in 2001, Steve Hill discovered hand made kokeshi wooden dolls that have been made in that country for centuries now. "kokeshi" is a generic dictionary word in Japan, not a brand name. Thinking he might one day want to build a website about the cute local dolls, Hill registered the domain name kokeshi.com

He has has it ever since but has never had time to do anything with it as the Army has moved him from one place to another throughout his military career. In late 2009, publishing company Editions Milan of Toulouse, France decided to start publishing a series of children's books called "Kokeshi" a term they acquired a French trademark on a couple of years earlier  - a trademark that was however, limited to books and compact discs.

Not surprisingly, the company decided they would like to own the domain name kokeshi.com and asked Hill to sell it to them. His first offer was $16,700 - an amount the publisher deemed to be "outrageous" (obviously they have no knowledge of one-word generic domain values). 

A Japanese kokeshi doll

Their lowball counter offer was $1,500 a token sum that Hill naturally turned down. After he rejected what Editions Milan called their "reasonable" offer, they apparently decided if he wouldn't give them his property at the price they wanted to pay, they would try to take it from him through a WIPO filing instead. 

Hill hired Traverse Legal to answer Editions Milan's bogus claim to his property. Traverse easily blew holes in the Complainant's case, noting "The Complainant has no rights in a generic or descriptive domain name, particularly when its trademark was registered at least five years after the registration of the disputed domain name."

Traverse also noted, "There are over 1,000,000 uses of the word “kokeshi” in various domain names" and added "The Complainant’s trademark is only for use in association with published books and compact discs.  It does not give the Complainant exclusive right to the descriptive name “Kokeshi”.  The Complainant cannot monopolize the use of generic terms and common words."  

Apparently this came as news to Editions Milan. They got another news flash when 

Traverse asked the sole panelist, Sir Ian Barker, to declare Editions Milan guilty of a reverse hijacking attempt. Sir Barker did the right thing and made that declaration part of his decision finding in favor of the Respondent,  Mr. Hill. You can read the entire decision here (Word document).

Unfortunately, attempting to use the arbitration system to hijack domain assets is becoming increasingly commonplace and efforts are also being made within ICANN to stack the deck even more in favor of companies who employ this despicable tactic. In the current environment, it is good to know that there are still fair-minded arbitration panelists out there who will turn the tables on companies that try to use the system to shake down domain owners.

(Posted June 25, 2010) To refer others to the post above only you can use this URL:

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