City of Paris ordered to pay over $100,000 for reverse domain name hijacking

United States of America

In an order dated September 14 2012 (Case 4:2009cv03939), the US District Court for the Southern District of Texas, Houston Division, has ordered the City of Paris, France, to pay $100,000 in statutory damages (plus attorneys' fees) to Jeffrey Walter. Walter had registered the domain name 'parvi.org' in 2006 and had lost it to the City of Paris in 2009 in a proceeding under the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP).

When Walter registered the domain name 'parvi.org', he was allegedly unaware of the rights of the City of Paris in the trademark PARVI. Despite initially amiable contacts, the City of Paris sought the transfer of the domain name under the UDRP and won (Case No D2009-1278). Walter sued the City of Paris before the federal district court for reverse domain name hijacking under the Anti-cybersquatting Consumer Protection Act, 15 USC § 1114(2)(D)(ii)(iv), alleging that he had not acted in bad faith when registering the domain name in 2006.

The City of Paris probably did not realise that, by initiating UDRP proceedings, it subjected itself to the jurisdiction of the court at the seat of the registrar, which in this case was Texas. In any case, the City of Paris did not respond to the suit filed before the district court, and the court entered a default judgment. Whether Walter will be able to collect on this judgment in France is questionable, but it would be surprising if the City of Paris did not have any assets in the United States - be it in the form of other domain names registered with registrars domiciled in the United States. 

The lesson for practitioners is that they must be aware that, by initiating UDRP proceedings, the claimant subjects itself to the jurisdiction at the seat of the registrar; such seat is very often located in the United States, which has anti-reverse domain name hijacking provisions that bite.

Mark Schweizer, Meyerlustenberger Lachenal, Zurich

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