A single-member WIPO panel denied a complaint filed by De Lage Landen International B.V. against the long-time owner of the domain name DLL.COM. Envision IP successfully represented the respondent, who has been associated with the domain name since 1995. Respondent has used the domain name to market a literacy program entitled "Defining Literacy Levels", also known as "DLL".
A quick Archive.org search shows the respondent's use of DLL.COM to market DLL method. Furthermore, a search of WHOIS records clearly shows the respondent as the technical contact, and then registrant of the domain name, years prior to complainant's alleged rights in the term "DLL".
The complainant offered a design trademark that incorporates the word "de lage landen", and an obscure graphical icon, to allege its rights in the term "DLL".
The Panel notes in the decision, "[t]he dominant elements of that trademark are the words “De Lage Landen”. It is not immediately apparent that the letters “DLL” feature at all in the trademark (other than as part of the words “De Lage Landen”) – however a close inspection of the trademark enables the Panel to see how an argument might be advanced that the graphic element of the trademark is a stylized form of the letters “DLL” – but those letters do not seem to the Panel to be readily apparent to the average viewer."
Regardless of its registered design mark, complainant alleged that its first use of the term DLL in commerce was not until 2007, again, years after respondent's registration of the domain name.
In addition, complainant recklessly and incorrectly alleged in its complaint that the respondent, Steve Thomas, a US citizen residing in New York, also owns another infringing domain name for another brand not even owned or affiliated with the complainant. Complainant cites a WHOIS record for a UK citizen by the same name as respondent. The Panel notes:
"The Panel’s views in this respect are reinforced by the Complainant’s allegation that the Respondent has registered other domain names in bad faith. A single example is relied upon by the Complainant (<fatboydesigns.co.uk>). However the only evidence linking this domain name to the Respondent is the registrant name “Steve Thomas” and the Respondent categorically denies that this is anything to do with him and says he would have no interest in such a domain name and this is clearly some other “Steve Thomas”. “Steve Thomas” does not seem to the Panel to be an unusual name and it should have been apparent to the Complainant that a case advanced on the basis that the Respondent had a propensity to register domain names in bad faith needed far more persuasive evidence that the coincidence of registrant name in one other domain name."
In the end, the complaint was denied, and found to be an attempt at reverse domain name hijacking. The full WIPO decision can be read here.