AOL sells itself short in cybersquatting row


Internet company AOL has failed to recover a domain name in a cybersquatting row, after submitting unsatisfactory evidence to the panellist.

In the case, published on April 2, the US company filed a complaint at the National Arbitration Forum over The registrant, a Chinese individual, failed to submit a response in a timely manner.

This meant that the panellist, Sandra Franklin, relied only on AOL’s assertions (prima facie) to determine whether the domain was cybersquatted. She noted that it infringed a valid AOL trademark, prompting her to examine whether the registrant had a legitimate interest in the site.

But AOL failed to show how the domain was being used or why it should be transferred, with Franklin noting that AOL’s entire argument read: “Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in the infringing domain name.  Respondent is not named or commonly known as AOL, nor is he licensed or authorised to use the AOL mark in this manner.”

Franklin said this was an insufficient argument to allow her to rule on the interests of the respondent, and consequently refused to consider whether the domain had been registered and used in bad faith. As a result, AOL failed to recover the domain.

Brands typically provide strong evidence to show why a domain should be transferred. In a recent case decided in AOL’s favour, the company showed that the registrant of and had no interest in them.

Despite it being unclear what was used for, some Internet browsers have blocked users from accessing it, saying it allows phishing – tricking people into disclosing sensitive information.

The case reemphasises that brands should clearly outline the nature of the alleged misuse of a domain name in cybersquatting disputes. 

This article was first published on 04 April 2013 in World IP Review

AOL, NAF, domain, cybersquatting

Trademarks and Brands Online