Partners separate ways, but what about the domain name?

WIPO came across a unique case regarding a domain name where both the parties were former partners. They both separated ways, but domain names between them were causing friction. The case was related to the use of domain names and

Clickbetter Ltd. was established in October 2012. The company was the joint result of two associates, one of them is the Complainant while the other is the Respondent here. 

The Complainant claims that at the inception of the joint venture it was decided that the Complainant would be the sole director as well as the shareholder of the company while the Respondent would be an unofficial ‘silent partner’. 

The domain names were registered by the Respondent for use by the Company. The relation between the Complainant and the Respondent soured after the latter failed to pay back loans. The Respondent then used the domain names to redirect them to the Complainant’s competitors. 

The Respondent claims that the issues should be looked at from a business perspective. The Respondent was 50% owner of the joint venture and that includes the domain name. The Respondent was happy to provide the services of domain names as his contribution, as long as he was associated with that company. 

The Respondent never showed any sign about releasing the control of domain names. The Complainant here has no registered trademarks to establish his unique rights over the domain names and relies on common law trademarks. That common law trademarks even if allowed to hold would be jointly shared between both the Parties, in relation to the Respondent’s 50% share in the joint venture. Thus, providing the similar common law rights to the Respondent as well. 

The panel, on majority decision, found that the scope of the present case was beyond its purview and hence denied the Complaint. 

You can read the full case here.


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