A panelist uncovers reverse domain name hijacking in a case involving a third-party adjuster.
It’s not every day that a large company engages in reverse domain name hijacking. But a National Arbitration Forum panelist said ruled that insurance company United Services Automobile Association (USAA) attempted to reverse the hijacking of usaainsuranceclaimsadjusting.com.
Harris Claims Services owns the domain name and uses it to promote its services. It represents policyholders trying to get the best payout from their insurance company, such as USAA.
As an insurance company, USAA also employs adjusters who work on its behalf when a customer files a claim.
This is a somewhat unique situation related to nominative fair use. The USAA and the domain owner are not technically in competition, but they are adversaries.
Panelist Gerald Levine wrote:
Although not in so many words, the defendant asserts that it uses the disputed domain name in a nominative manner to market its adjustment utilities, as indicated by the additional words in the disputed domain name “adjustment claims d ‘insurance”. Named fair use has a long history under the UDRP, as it does in US law. The question before the Panel is whether Defendant’s nominative fair use defense is valid, because if so, it would also satisfy a non-exclusive circumstance of a legitimate right or interest in the Name of disputed area.
Levine determined that the case should be decided in favor of Harris Claims Services based on an established law for nominative fair use.
He also wrote, “The UDRP is designed to suppress cybersquatting, not competition, and for these reasons, Respondent has legitimate interests in the disputed domain name.”
He went further to find the reverse domain name hijacking:
Respondent submits that Complainant makes false and misleading statements in its Complaint and Supplemental Submission and that Complainant’s assertions have no reasonable connection to the facts of this case. The disputed domain name was registered in 2010 and, as a public expert, the defendant represents USAA policyholders who have been seeking independent experts for over twenty years. The Complainant’s failure to acknowledge these material facts is a serious oversight. Admitting them should have alerted Complainant’s attorney that he had no legal action for cybersquatting, but he continued despite his knowledge of these facts.
Instead, the attorney drafted a complaint to mislead the panel that the disputed domain name was only recently discovered, that there is no history of defendant representing plaintiff’s policyholders over the years, and plaintiff is “shocked” that defendant is representing plaintiff’s policyholders as a public expert in the negotiation of insurance claim settlements. By not acknowledging this history, the Complainant has presented a false picture of the circumstances in which and for which the disputed Domain Name was registered and is used.
In filing this complaint, the attorney has certified under UDRP Rule 3(xiii) that “this complaint is not made for an improper purpose, such as harassment, and that the assertions contained in this complaint are justified in under these Rules and applicable law, as it now exists or as it may be extended by good faith and reasonable argument. When assessing a cybersquatting claim, a party’s failure to acknowledge these undeniable facts undermines any claim that “the assertions [. . .] are justified.
Reverse domain name hijacking is defined in the UDRP rules as an “attempt to deprive a registered name holder of a domain name”. Rule 15(e) states that “if, after reviewing the submissions, the Panel concludes that the Complaint was filed in bad faith, for example in connection with attempted reverse domain name hijacking, or was filed primarily to harass the domain name holder, the panel must declare in its decision that the complaint was made in bad faith and constitutes an abuse of administrative process.
For the reasons explained above and in the preceding sections, the Panel declares that this complaint was filed in bad faith with the aim of depriving the Respondent of the disputed Domain Name.