How Web 3.0 Technologies Foundation won Polkadot.com domain name

This cybersquatting dispute is full of strange (and conflicting) circumstances.

Web 3.0 Technologies Foundation, the organization behind the Polkadot parachain platform, has won a cybersquatting claim against the owner of polkadot.com.

Polkadot is a platform that allows for cross-chain transactions. It currently uses the domain polkadot.network.

On the face of it, it seems odd that a dictionary word like polkadot.com could be won in a UDRP cybersquatting case. It comes down to the intentions of the domain owner who acquired the domain after Polkadot existed. Still, there are a lot of facts in dispute, and the decision gives me pause.

Panelist Warwick Rothnie noted:

“Polkadot” is an ordinary English word but the website to which the disputed domain name resolves is not directed to the dictionary meaning of “polkadot” or the study or some other activity related to “polkadot”.

It’s undisputed that the domain resolves to a site about the blockchain platform. The domain’s current owner says it is lending the domain to someone formerly affiliated with the Complainant.

That’s an odd circumstance, and it gets even more convoluted.

According to the Complainant, it was negotiating to buy the domain for $600,000 in March 2021, but the domain was transferred to another party at the end of March. In early April, someone contacted one of Polkadot’s employees, offering to sell the domain for $77 million. The case decision says the Complainant’s domain broker then contacted it and said the new owner was willing to sell it for $80 million. (I’m not sure if it was the Complainant’s broker or the broker that was offering to sell the domain to it earlier.)

The current owner of the domain says that it didn’t acquire the domain until June 2021 and was unaffiliated with the previous offers. It’s worth noting that the Complainant didn’t provide evidence of the previous offer.

The Respondent told the panel it was a not-for-profit that had never sold a domain. It said it acquired the domain through domain marketplace 4.cn. However, Polkadot’s Whois record lists Hangzhou Midaizi Network Co., Ltd. as the registrant and this was verified by the domain’s registrar. That’s the company that owns 4.cn.

So it’s a messy case and it’s not clear what’s true. I think the balance comes down to how the domain was used after the acquisition. It’s fine to register a dictionary word as a domain name. But you’re looking for trouble if you then use it in a way that directly relates to a trademark.

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