Case Conclusion Date: September 29, 2008
Practice Area: Internet
Outcome: Stolen domain name transferred back to client
Description: Van der Steen (Respondent) was employed by my client, HintTech, Inc. (Complainant). A technical wizard, Respondent set up and managed Complainant's e-mail system and other IT resources. Complainant learned that Respondent, in an attempt to evade certain financial obligations, had used his technical expertise and privileged access to forge e-mails to Complainant management and a third party. Complainant terminated Respondent's employment. Three months later, Complainant learned that, just days after termination, Respondent had hijacked one of Complainant's domain names. While the domain still resolved to the appropriate Complainant website, there was a serious threat to Complainant's business, because Respondent had formed a new company to compete directly with Complainant. Complainant asked the registrar to reinstate Complainant as registrant. The registrar refused, stating that once a dispute arises, it will take no action until the dispute is resolved in accordance with ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) procedures. Complainant asked Respondent to reinstate its registration. Respondent replied that he would do so only if Complainant paid him some not-yet-specified amount of money. Complainant refused to be blackmailed. I prepared a complaint under ICANN's Uniform Domain-Name Dispute-Resolution Policy. I filed the complaint with the National Arbitration Forum, sent a copy to the registrar by e-mail, and sent a copy to Respondent via FedEx. Promptly following receipt of the complaint, the registrar locked the domain name, meaning that Respondent could not redirect it to his own website. That's why I did not e-mail Respondent's copy: I was concerned that once he received the complaint, Respondent might try to do something terrible before the registration was locked, so I arranged for the registrar to receive the complaint a day before Respondent did. Respondent never filed a response. Seven weeks later, the provider ruled in Complainant's favor, and the domain name was returned to Complainant.