In simple terms, Reverse Domain Name Hijacking (RDNH) is when a person or company try to take your domain name from you using the UDRP (Uniform Dispute Resolution Policy) process, or via a case filed in Federal court. Reverse hijacking is attempted by making a false claim of trademark infringement intended to scare a domain registrant into giving up their domain name.
The domain registrant will typically receive a cease & desist letter accusing the registrant of infringing on a trademark (that is arguably weak or non-existent). The letter may demand that the registrant either cancel the domain registration through their sponsoring registrar, or transfer the domain name to the person/company claiming the infringement.
Reverse hijacking is more easily defended in regard to generic domain names. Pure generic and geographical domain names enjoy considerable protection under U.S. trademark law, and there is an extensive body of case precedent supporting this conclusion. That is excellent news for holders of generic domain names. However, some unscrupulous companies will try their luck with the UDRP process in the hope that you, the registrant, will fail to respond to their UDRP claim.
Key point: Always respond to a UDRP claim. They are winnable. You have 20 days to file a response to a UDRP. Reverse hijackers feel they have nothing to lose since submitting a UDRP claim can be done for as little as $1250. If you fail to respond to a claim in the allotted time, then the hijacker will win by default and your domain name will likely be transferred to the hijacker simply on your failure to respond.
There are cases in which a registrant was out of the country on business or vacation, and did not get back home in time to respond to a UDRP claim. So checking mail and email at least weekly is obviously important. If you lose a UDRP against a hijacker, you have 10 days to file a civil lawsuit for “injunctive relief” which will take the case to court where you can have the unjust UDRP decision overturned. However, it’s much easier to just respond to the UDRP and win the case up front.
Listed below are additional resources to further your research
- USPTO.gov (United States Patent & Trademark Office – Trademark Search)
- WIPO (World Intellectual Property Org. – UDRP Domain Name Case Search)
- NAF (National Arbitration Forum – UDRP Domain Name Case Search)
- DomainFight.net (an excellent site that will search the database of both WIPO & NAF)
Domain Attorneys (with numerous wins to their credit)