The Hall Of Shame Poster Boys Page Is Reserved For The Most Egregious RDNH Rulings
The Poster Boy status is reserved for only the most blatant or egregious violators of the Universal Domain-name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP), which is designed to protect legitimate trademark holders from having their registered or common-law trademarks and slogan marks registered as domains.
Earning a place on this list puts those listed into a unique class, akin to the status of arch-nemesis of domain name investors and the domain industry.
Poster Boy I: Marcio Mello Chaves
Our first Hall Of Shame Poster Boy was inducted in 2012. For eight years, the person with the dubious distinction of being a Poster Boy for Reverse Domain Name Hijacking sat alone on our list.
Marcio Mello Chaves filed what become a notorious UDRP case against the owner of SaveMe.com, Rick Schwartz, on March 14, 2012. The case had been filed after Mr. Chaves had made offers to buy the domain, offers which Mr. Schwartz rejected.
Mr. Chaves based his case, in part, on a pending trademark application in Brazil, and his ownership SaveMe.com.br, and of the SaveMe domain in several ccTLDs. The pending trademark had been filed in 2010, a full 14 years after SaveMe.com had been registered.
A three-member panel at the World Intellectual Property Organization made particular note of the lengthy registration period of the dot-com domain, writing extensively about the failure of Mr. Chaves and his attorneys, in the Brazilian law firm of Almeida Advogados, to make any case of bad faith registration. However, the panel's general conclusions regarding the merits of the case were summed up in a single paragraph, which opened the discussion section on registration and use in bad faith.
"There is a fatal flaw in the Complainant’s case, namely that the Respondent registered the disputed domain name in 1996, some 14 years before the Complainant started trading in 2010, and could not therefore have registered the disputed domain name in bad faith," the panel wrote.
The panel further eroded Mr. Chaves' claim of bad faith registration when they issued their ruling of Reverse Domain Name Hijacking. In discussing their decision, the panelists noted Mr. Chaves' original complaint did not even mention registration and use in bad faith.
"In this case, the Panel is satisfied that the Complainant’s [Mr. Chaves'] representatives were well aware of the importance of the chronological issue," the panelists said. "Yet the version of the Complaint originally filed simply ignored the issue of registration in bad faith, labelling the third factor as 'Bad Faith In the Domain Name Use'."
What made the SaveMe.com case notably egregious was the added fact that Mr. Chaves, himself, was quite familiar with intellectual property law, as he is an attorney, himself, specializing in that very type of law.
The WIPO panel handed up its ruling on May 31, 2012,
Case on HallOfShame.com: http://www.hallofshame.com/rdnh-case/marcio-mello-chaves-is-a-reverse-domain-name-hijacker/
A PDF of the Marcio Mello Chaves Poster is available for download.
2020 brought the coronavirus, economic disruption, political discord, and the first addition to the exclusive Hall Of Shame Poster Boy list since 2012.
While the world, itself, is unlikely to notice any difference between September 14 and September 15, 2020, Sahil Gupta will certainly never be able to live down the RDNH ruling handed up against him by the World Intellectual Property Organization. In fact, if you look at Mr. Gupta's Twitter feed, it seems he does not want to live down the moment.
Before we get into social-media aftermath that befell the Sahil Gupta RDNH ruling, it is important to review the facts of the case.
Mr. Gupta filed his UDRP against Mrs Jello, LLC, a domain trading and monetization concern well-known within the domain industry, for the domain Spase.com. Mr. Gupta predicated his filing on the fact Mrs Jello, LLC had previous UDRP cases against it, the company had asked too much money for the purchase of Spase.com, and as owner and operator of Spase, Inc. on the domain, Space.io, since February of 2019, he had earned a common-law trademark status entitling him to the Spase.com domain.
Spase.com was originally acquired by Mrs Jello, LLC in 2005, long before Mr. Gupta went into business. In fact, Mr. Gupta's age, alone, makes it impossible for him to have owned a trademark in 2005, as he did not enter high school until 2009, according to his LinkedIn.com profile. Children are not permitted to enter into contracts in the United States.
Nonetheless, Mr. Gupta complained the domain was registered in bad faith and being used in bad faith, a claim the three-member panel of the World Intellectual Property Organization found wholly without merit.
"The record reflects that the Respondent had used the disputed domain name primarily to generate PPC revenues for some (14) years prior the Complainant’s launch of its business in February 2019," the panelists said. "[T]he Complainant has brought forward no credible evidence that the Respondent registered the disputed domain name in order to exploit and profit from the Complainant’s rights or those of other third parties."
In issuing their ruling of Reverse Domain Name Hijacking, the panelists stated flatly they believed the entire case to be without merit.
"The Complainant, after unsuccessfully attempting purchase the disputed domain name from the Respondent, then filed a groundless Complaint," the panelists concluded.
Case on HallOfShame.com: http://www.hallofshame.com/rdnh-case/spase-io-learns-hard-lesson-of-garbage-in-garbage-out/
A PDF of the Sahil Gupta Poster is available for download.
Sahil Gupta's Social Media Tirade
Sahil Gupta of Spase.io had already earned himself a place in the Hall Of Shame for his naked attempt to hijack the domain Spase.com. However, it was his response to the RDNH ruling, and the subsequent domain industry media coverage of the case, that earned his special place on the list of RDNH Poster Boys.
The ruling and subsequent media coverage provoked within Mr. Gupta an apparent need to lambast and attempt to discredit the domain industry, the World Intellectual Property Organization, Mrs Jello, LLC, and the company's attorneys. Mrs Jello, LLC is the company against which Mr. Gupta had filed his UDRP complaint.
In an apparent reaction to the news coverage by the domain industry, Mr. Gupta pinned a 25-post thread to the top of his Twitter feed, compelling anyone arriving at his profile to see the first, bellicose post of his protracted diatribe, wherein he claims he is the victim of "abuse" and a "level of bullshit that can't go uncorrected".
Reading through the thread, it becomes obvious Mr. Gupta has a genuine sense of entitlement where it concerns the ownership of the domain Spase.com, although he scarcely attempts to explain why, after being in business only 17 months, he believed he should take the property rights of someone who has owned the domain since Mr. Gupta was in elementary school.
Spase, Inc., operating at Spase.io, began operations, according to the UDRP complaint, in February 2019. The complaint, itself, was filed in July 2020. Mrs Jello, LLC, acquired Spase.com in February 2005. Mr. Gupta did not begin high school until 2009, according to his own LinkedIn profile.
Such a timeline does not proffer a clue to Mr. Gupta that, perhaps, he did not have rights to something by the same name. Instead, he posted links to media coverage of Mrs Jello, LLC's acquisition of penis.org, in an apparent attempt to discredit the company's business model of acquiring and monetizing generic domain names.
"For the last 10 months I've been dealing with this entity Mrs Jello LLC, who owns spase.com. A simple Google search for Mrs Jello LLC will make who they are and their business model very clear," Mr. Gupta wrote, in the fourth of more than two-dozen tweets in the thread.
Mr. Gupta then goes on to explain that his company is called Spase and builds 3D models and augmented reality models, although it is very unclear how AR could be made into a model. Perhaps he meant to write mockup. "We're live at spase.io and I believe we have the legitimate rights to spase.com."
Mr. Gupta has no registered trademarks for Spase, although a three-member panel at the World Intellectual Property Organization gave him the benefit of the doubt for having established a modicum of common-law trademark status for Spase, although Mr. Gupta had been in business just under a year and a half.
But even granting this benefit, in what the United States District Court rules might regard as "the light most favorable to the plaintiff", Mr. Gupta once again acted the victim, going so far as to accuse Michal Lichtman, the domain admin for Mrs Jello, LLC, of committing perjury, and accusing the WIPO panel of being complicit with those who infringe on trademarks.
"I'm in no position to criticize the UDRP arbiters," he begins in one of the tweets, "but their decision is cementing the exact behavior it was designed to prevent."
He also critiqued the very process he has been found guilty of abusing, because the arbitration panel refused to accept whatever filings he wished to provide them, whenever he wished to provide them.
"Weeks go by," Mr. Gupta wrote of the arbitration timeline. "Domain arbiters still end up throwing out my reply, because they don't accept secondary replies. And without my counter, it's my original few sentences against 7 pages."
It seems Mr. Gupta does not care about the procedural rules of arbitration any more than he does genuine trademark law. What is striking in his thread, however, is how Mr. Gupta does little to explain why he did not first attempt to acquire a genuine trademark registration for his company name, in the category of industry in which he operates. He also fails to explain why he did nothing to research the UDRP process before haphazardly filing a UDRP complaint in order to hijack a domain, which is how the WIPO panel finally put it.
"[T]he record in this case evinces that the Complaint was brought in bad faith within the meaning of the applicable provisions of the Policy and Rules," the panelists wrote in their decision. "The Complainant, after unsuccessfully attempting purchase the disputed domain name from the Respondent, then filed a groundless Complaint."
Despite the clarity of the panelists in their ruling, Mr. Gupta has flatly refused to accept that he attempted to steal someone's property by abusing an arbitration proceeding. An international panel has ruled, but according to Mr. Gupta, who apparently insists on a last word in this increasingly sordid affair, fired off another salvo of innuendo, whilst continuing to play the victim.
"I could have kept my mouth shut, but this cannot happen again," Mr. Gupta wrote, in the second to last of his 25-tweet rant. "Mrs Jello and Mr. [Stevan] Lieberman cannot get away with this."
It does seem strange the person who is guilty of attempting to steal the digital assets of another thinks the property owners "got away" with something.
The Domain And Tech Industries Respond
Being branded a Reverse Domain Name Hijacker, particularly so early in one's life and career, is likely to impact Mr. Sahil Gupta of Spase.io more deeply and for a longer period of time than he will ever realize. That is the long-term tragedy of his attempt to hijack the domain, spase.com, from Mrs Jello, LLC, which has owned the domain since February 2005, around the time Mr. Gupta was learning long division in elementary school.
Mr. Gupta's UDRP filing with the World Intellectual Property Organization was shot down by a three-member panel, which called his claims "baseless". He was found guilty of Reverse Domain Hijacking.
Mr. Gupta has taken his loss at the WIPO arbitration panel hard, and what has been remarkable is how he still believes his interpretation of the rules is the only correct one.
"For the dispute, I write a few sentences. Thinking it would be obvious for the arbiters to make a decision," he posted on Twitter on September 25, a full ten days after his loss at WIPO. "Then the Jello lawyer gets involved. Mr. Stevan Lieberman. He writes a response of 7 pages. He's a professional."
Mr. Gupta's tweet was part of a 25-tweet thread, which was pinned to his profile. In the thread, he details a narrative that he became the victim of the poor judgment and unethical behavior of the domain industry, the rightful owner of Spase.com, the attorneys for Spase.com, the panelists on the arbitration panel at the World Intellectual Property Organization, and the online, industry media that covered the story. The latter, apparently, unfairly dropped the straw that broke the back of Mr. Gupta's proverbial camel by writing about the RDNH ruling handed up by WIPO on September 15, 2020.
The thread has not gone unnoticed by the domain industry or the larger tech industry. Domain investors, marketing agents, and owners of tech companies have tendered copious reply tweets. Some have offered almost motherly-like advice, while other replies have been removed by Twitter for violating the social media company's rules.
"Consider yourself lucky that the rightful registrant hasn't sued you for what you've done," tweeted @scrsteven. "It happens," he continued, posting a link to a 2017 story on DomainNameWire.com, in which Telephathy sued Parametric Portfolio Associates for reverse domain name hijacking.
Regardless of the tenor of the post, however, there does not appear to be a response from Mr. Gupta to the barrage. Perhaps, the reason could be the overwhelmingly negative response to his persistent sense of privilege.
"A man who maintains that he is right after having been proven wrong is the most dangerous kind of man there is," wrote @InsideDomains.
"Do you live in a parallel spase?" asked @Snjv19.
Other posters were quite unforgiving.
"You are a complete loser," tweeted @DubaiMarketing. "The entire domain and law community are cracking up at your ignorance, tunnel vision, and arrogance."
DomainNameWire.com, which had been cited by Mr. Gupta in an effort to discredit a business transaction conducted by Mrs Jello, LLC, had its own reply to Mr. Gupta's Twitter-verse rant.
"The panel read your additional submission," @DomainNameWire replied, citing Mr. Gupta's supplemental filing, which was later disregarded by the WIPO panel. "[T]here was nothing you could have said to show that the domain was registered in bad faith more than a decade before you began your business."
There were even tweets asking that Mr. Gupta be not only added to HallOfShame.com, but held up as an example due to his uniquely hostile RDNH and his response to losing.
"Can we find Sahil a place on HallOfShame.com?" asked @JoshDotCo.
Indeed, we can.