WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center
ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISION
Airpromote Limited v. Nick Sunnar
Case No. D2021-1544
1. The Parties
The Complainant is Airpromote Limited, United Kingdom, represented by Harper James solicitors, United Kingdom.
The Respondent is Nick Sunnar, United Kingdom.
2. The Domain Name and Registrar
The disputed domain name <airpromote.com> (the “Disputed Domain Name”) is registered with GoDaddy.com, LLC (the “Registrar”).
3. Procedural History
The Complaint was filed with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (the “Center”) on May 18, 2021. On May 18, 2021, the Center transmitted by email to the Registrar a request for registrar verification in connection with the Disputed Domain Name. On May 19, 2021, the Registrar transmitted by email to the Center its verification response confirming that the Respondent is listed as the registrant and providing the contact details.
The Center verified that the Complaint satisfied the formal requirements of the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (the “Policy” or “UDRP”), the Rules for Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (the “Rules”), and the WIPO Supplemental Rules for Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (the “Supplemental Rules”).
In accordance with the Rules, paragraphs 2 and 4, the Center formally notified the Respondent of the Complaint, and the proceedings commenced on May 21, 2021. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5, the due date for Response was June 21, 2021. On June 7, 2021, the Center received an email communication from the Respondent. On June 8, 2021, the Center sent the possible settlement email to the Parties. On June 23, 2021, the Center notified the commencement of Panel appointment process. On June 30, 2021, the Center received another email communication from Respondent. This attached to it a letter sent by the Respondent’s solicitors dated June 18, 2021 to the Complainant’s solicitors.
The Center appointed Nick J. Gardner as the sole panelist in this matter on July 1, 2021. The Panel finds that it was properly constituted. The Panel has submitted the Statement of Acceptance and Declaration of Impartiality and Independence, as required by the Center to ensure compliance with the Rules, paragraph 7.
4. Factual Background
The factual background to this Complaint involves a dispute which it has emerged concerns the Complainant and its corporate history. The Complainant is an English company formed in 2016 which describes itself as an “augmented travel retail service” and whose business appears to be assisting or advising companies active in the retail business in airports to promote or analyse their businesses. The Respondent’s position appears to be disputed – the Complainant says he is an ex-employee of the Complainant whilst the Respondent says he was a director and is a 50% shareholder in the Complainant (see further below). The Disputed Domain Name was originally registered on February 4, 2016. It resolves to a website (the “Complainant’s Website”) which promotes the Complainant and its business. The Complainant alleges the Respondent transferred the registration into his name or under his control on October 6, 2020 (see below).
5. Parties’ Contentions
The Complainant says it has unregistered trademark rights in the term “airpromote” as its trading name and provides information about its activities and turnover to support this claim.
The Complainant says the Disputed Domain Name was originally registered on its behalf by its director. It says the Respondent was an employee of the Complainant until January 29, 2021. It says one of the Respondent’s duties as an employee was administering and renewing the Disputed Domain Name registration. The Complainant in substance alleges that the Respondent without authority on October 6, 2020 transferred the Disputed Domain Name into his own name (or that of a privacy service as his nominee.) The Complainant says that following the termination of his employment the Respondent claimed to be owed money. It says the Respondent wrote the following to the Complainant on February 24, 2021 “for avoidance of incurring additional fees/charges/expenses for the business all access will be suspended or restricted with immediate effect, including but not limited to, emails, websites, hosting, systems and programs, until such point a mutual satisfactory conclusion can be agreed”. The Complainant says that on February 26, 2021 the Complainant’s Website stopped working for several hours. It alleges this was caused by the Respondent to make good on his threat and put pressure on the Complainant to pay the Respondent the sums he was seeking. The Complainant’s Website resumed working and since then the Disputed Domain Name continues to resolve to the Complainant’s Website.
The substance of the Complainant’s case so far as the Policy is concerned is that the Respondent registered the Disputed Domain Name in bad faith when he transferred it into his name (or put it under his control) in October 2020 and that it has been used in bad faith by disabling the access to the Complainant’s Website as described above.
The Respondent did not file a formal response within the time permitted under the Rules. He did however file out of time an email accompanied by a letter his solicitors had sent to the Complainant’s solicitors. The Panel has read that letter. For reasons explained below the Panel does not need to decide whether or not to exercise its discretion to treat that correspondence as a Response.
6. Discussion and Findings
The Policy is addressed to resolving disputes concerning allegations of abusive domain name registration and use. Accordingly, the jurisdiction of this Panel is limited to providing a remedy in cases of “the abusive registration of domain names”, also known as “cybersquatting” - see Weber‑Stephen Products Co. v. Armitage Hardware, WIPO Case No. D2000-0187. See also the Final Report of the First WIPO Internet Domain Name Process, April 30, 1999, paragraphs 169-177. The term “cybersquatting” is most frequently used to describe the deliberate, bad faith abusive registration of a domain name in violation of rights in trademarks or service marks - id at paragraph 170. Paragraph 15(a) of the Rules provides that the panel shall decide a complaint on the basis of statements and documents submitted and in accordance with the Policy, the Rules and any other rules or principles of law that the panel deems applicable. The Policy does not contemplate this Panel serving as a tribunal of general jurisdiction over any and all disputes which are somehow related to domain names.
The issues raised by the parties in the present case arise out of what it now emerges is a complex shareholder/director dispute with the Disputed Domain Name and the Complainant’s Website being just a small part of the matters at issue in that dispute. The Respondent’s solicitors letter to the Complainant’s solicitor of June 18, 2021 is 8 pages long and sets out in thirty separate paragraphs the Respondent’s alleged claims against the Complainant arising out of what he says is his shareholding in the Complainant and and his position as a former director of the Complainant. It is not the function of the Panel to deal with wider disputes of this nature in order to adjudicate on a domain name which forms but one part of an underlying dispute – see Clinomics Biosciences, Inc. v. Simplicity Software, Inc., WIPO Case No. D2001-0823.
Matters as raised in the Complaint set out what originally appeared to amount to a relatively straightforward case which might have been suitable for determination under the Policy (although the Panel notes that even the correspondence relied upon by the Complainant showed that it was likely there was a complex dispute between the parties – the quote the Complainant relied upon as set out above was part of a series of emails and was included in correspondence passing between solicitors). However it is clear to the Panel matters are much more complex than at first appeared. The Panel is conscious of the risk that a respondent faced with a complaint of this nature may seek to obfuscate matters and introduce unnecessary complexity to try to persuade the relevant panel that the matter is not suitable for determination under the Policy. However in the present case publicly available information on file at Companies House in the United Kingdom confirms certain information which underlies much of what the Respondent’s solicitors say in their letter of June 18, 2021. Specifically the following matters are confirmed by on file documentation – (1) the Respondent became a director of the Complainant on March 21, 2016; (2) he ceased to be a director on July 31, 2018; and (3) according to a “confirmation statement” dated March 3, 2017 the Respondent held 50 of the 100 issued ordinary shares in the Complainant. None of these matters were referred to in the Complaint which simply presented the Respondent as a disgruntled ex-employee of the Complainant. Having regard to this material and the matters set out in the Respondent’s solicitor’s letter of June 18 2021 (above) the Panel concludes this dispute is not one which is appropriate for determination under the Policy.
The Panel offers no view at all as to the merits of either party’s position in relation to the dispute, or as to in whose name the Disputed Domain Name should be registered, or whether the conduct of the Respondent gives rise to any other applicable remedy for the Complainant.
In view of this determination by the Panel it does not consider it is necessary to decide the questions that would normally arise under the Policy.
For the foregoing reasons, the Complaint is denied.
Nick J. Gardner
Date: July 13, 2021