AOGA.com UDRP is a Toughie

The Alaska Oil and Gas Association filed a UDRP against the AOGA.com domain name, and the organization prevailed. Reading the decision, I can see both sides of the case and I think it’s a difficult situation. I think it was probably the right decision, but I think the rationale for the decision was wrong.

The Alaska Oil and Gas Association previously owned AOGA.com. According to the decision, the plaintiff had the domain name of his account with Network Solutions stolen:

“Complainant lost control of the Domain Name through an unauthorized fraudulent transfer in 2020. As part of Complainant’s investigation, Complainant contacted the registrar where the Domain Name had been registered, Network Solutions and the Registrar, where the account was transferred. Complainant was informed by Network Solutions that third parties had contacted this Registrar and ordered a transfer, which by Complainant was not authorized. Complainant has further learned that his account with Network Solutions had been repeatedly accessed by different people in different parts of the world. Unbeknownst to the Complainant and without authorization, one or more people infiltrated the domain management account of the Complainant and transferred the disputed Domain to another.”

Even worse, the domain name was apparently sold to someone else on NameJet. According to NameBioAOGA.com was sold for $1,193 on NameJet in December 2020. I did not participate in the auction, but I looked at historical Whois records on DomainTools and it does not appear that this domain name has ever been expired.

It seems plausible that the domain name was in fact stolen from the plaintiff and that the domain name was acquired by the registrant at an auction for $1,193. Beyond contacting AOGA to ask about the domain name, it would have been difficult to know that the domain name was stolen, especially if the buyer did not have access to a paid account at DomainTools. or DomainIQ.

Yes, the plaintiff most likely had his account domain name stolen, but the current registrant purchased a domain name with a 4-letter acronym at auction without knowing it had been stolen.

This makes things a little murky, especially since it’s a fairly generic domain name and the complaining organization is the Alaska Oil and Gas Association and not a company called Aoga.

A big problem I have with the decision is that the panelist points out the discrepancy between the purchase price and the incumbent’s asking price as if it should matter:

“Prior to Notice of Litigation, Defendant demonstrated no use of the domain name or a name corresponding to the domain name in connection with a bona fide offer of goods or services.

On the contrary, as demonstrated by the Complainant, the Domain Name resolved itself in one page, where it was offered for sale for 88,000.01 USD, an amount well above its acquisition price by the Respondent. of $1,193.

In my opinion, a registrant has the right to charge any price they wish to charge. The acquisition price of a domain name does not have to be correlated to the purchase price.

Additionally, time and time again, UDRP panels have ruled that domain investing is a legitimate business and that domain investors can sell their domain names. I see no reason for a panelist to cite the disparity between a purchase price and an asking price as a reason to conclude that the domain name holder has no legitimate interest in the domain name.

I also have a problem with a conclusion the panelist made about why the registrant bought the domain name in the first place:

“The Panel finds that it is more likely than not that Respondent registered and used the Domain Name in bad faith. Because the AOGA mark had been used at the time of the registration of the Domain Name by the Respondent, noting the composition of the Domain Name, the fact that a WhoIs search would have shown that the Domain Name was created in 1998 , and that the Domain Name was previously used by Complainant, the Panel finds that Respondent knew of Complainant’s trademark when registering the Domain Name, and likely registered it because of its identity with the trademark. AOGA used by Complainant. »

This, to me, makes no sense. As an investor, if I see a company giving up a domain name – perhaps until it expires or sells – I assume they no longer want the domain name. Even if the domain name accidentally expired, I think the company would be reluctant to pay the market value of the domain name because it expired by mistake. No business wants to go out and spend five figures buying a domain name that expired by mistake. If I was bidding on AOGA.com, I would have assumed that the Alaska Oil and Gas Association no longer wanted the domain name or would not be willing to pay the market value of the domain name if it was accidental expiration.

Either way, I think it was probably the right decision given the circumstances and the acronym AOGA belonging to the complainant, but I also think the rationale for the decision was significantly flawed.

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