Recent Case Notes & Commentary

UDRP – Scope of the Policy Does Not Extend to Disputes Arising From Commercial or Family Matters

Roger Martin v Sandra Blevins, Social Design

WIPO Case: D2016-0181

April 7, 2016


The Respondent created the disputed domain name <strategicchoicearchitecture.com> on October 29, 2009, 6 months after another domain name <rogerlmartin.com> was created. The Respondent registered the disputed domain name under her name while she was working for the Complainant. During this time the Respondent and the Complainant were engaged in a personal and professional relationship. They were later married in 2010. Following their separation in 2013, a settlement was agreed upon 'settling all issues between the Parties'. In the settlement <rogerlmartin.com> was transferred to the Complainant, however <strategicchoicearchitectute.com> remained with the Respondent and the proceeding was brought to obtain the latter domain name.


The panel also held that it was unnecessary to address the issue of the Complainant's rights in the mark or the Respondents rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name because the Complainant would fail on the third element, bad faith.


On bad faith, the Panel held that the evidence did not necessarily demonstrate that the Respondent was acting in bad faith when the disputed domain name was registered. So the Complainant failed on bad faith because the dispute was outside the scope of the Policy.


The Scope of the Policy

Wider issues beyond the scope of the policy were identified in the case, namely:

  1. The nature of the Parties' business relationship and the extent to which this was or became a joint venture or was one of agency or a subcontracting arrangement when the domain name was registered;

  2. The meaning and effect of the settlement agreement.

'These issues, whether characterised as being of a commercial or a family law nature, are not suited for resolution under the Policy, which is designed to address clear cases of abusive cybersquatting'


This case is an indication to Complainants that if registration of the disputed domain name occurred within the boundaries of a business or personal relationship invoking matters beyond the scope of the Policy, it is unlikely that their case will succeed.


Previous UDRP panels have dealt with the issue of the scope of the Policy in a similar way. The Thread.com, LLC v. Jeffrey S. Poploff, WIPO Case No. D200-1470, Kurt Garmaker d/b/a "Repetition Miniature Schnauzers" v. Hilde Haakensen, Axcium Design, WIPO Case No. D2015-0993.


Parties would therefore be wise, before starting UDRP proceedings, to consider whether the case is appropriate to be brought by way of a complaint under the UDRP at all.