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Embassy.University vs EmbassyUniversity.com : Who won the #UDRP?

A dispute between the former president of a ministry program evolved into a UDRP involving the domain EmbassyUniversity.com.

The Complainant was president of the Institute in Basic Life Principles, when the domain was registered in 2004. Subsequently, he left his role as President of IBLP in 2014, and thereafter filed to dissolve the “Embassy University Corporation.”

In 2019, the Complainant formed a new online institution and registered it as “Embassy University” with the Florida Independent Educational Institution, and as a 501(c) non-profit corporation operating as “Embassy University” in Illinois. In doing so, he registered the domain Embassy.University, all while seeking the transfer of the domain EmbassyUniversity.com.

According to the UDRP , the Respondent refuses to transfer the domain name, and instead uses it to redirect to its own website at EmbassyMedia.com, where Respondent hosts services that compete with the business of Complainant.

The sole NAF panelist view this case this as a contractual dispute, as opposed to a cybersquatting issue to be resolved by the UDRP, and dismissed the case, denying the domain’s transfer.

Additional details on this case follow:

The domain transfer was denied.

Dr. William Gothard v. Host Master / IBLP

Claim Number: FA2009001912466

PARTIES

Complainant is Dr. William Gothard (“Complainant”), represented by Alfred Corduan, Illinois, USA. Respondent is Host Master / IBLP (“Respondent”), represented by Robert J. Barth, Illinois, USA.

 

REGISTRAR AND DISPUTED DOMAIN NAME

The domain name at issue is <embassyuniversity.com>, registered with GoDaddy.com, LLC.

PANEL

The undersigned certifies that he has acted independently and impartially, and, to the best of his knowledge, has no conflict of interests in serving as Panelist in this proceeding.

 

Terry F. Peppard as Panelist.

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Complainant submitted a Complaint to the Forum electronically on September 16, 2020; the Forum received payment on September 16, 2020.

 

On September 16, 2020, GoDaddy.com, LLC confirmed by e-mail to the Forum that the <embassyuniversity.com> domain name is registered with GoDaddy.com, LLC and that Respondent is the current registrant of the name. GoDaddy.com, LLC has verified that Respondent is bound by the GoDaddy.com, LLC registration agreement and has thereby agreed to resolve domain disputes brought by third parties in accordance with ICANN’s Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (the “Policy”).

 

On September 17, 2020, the Forum served the Complaint and all Annexes, including a Written Notice of the Complaint, setting a deadline of October 7, 2020 by which Respondent could file a Response to the Complaint, via e-mail to all entities and persons listed on Respondent’s registration as technical, administrative, and billing contacts, and to postmaster@embassyuniversity.com. Also on September 17, 2020, the Written Notice of the Complaint, notifying Respondent of the e-mail addresses served and the deadline for a Response, was transmitted to Respondent via post and fax, to all entities and persons listed on Respondent’s registration as technical, administrative and billing contacts.

 

A timely Response was received and determined to be complete on October 6, 2020.

 

Complainant has since filed an Additional Submission, which appears to have been submitted in compliance with the requirements of Supplemental Rule 7.

 

On October 12, 2020, pursuant to Complainant’s request to have the dispute decided by a single-member Panel, the Forum appointed Terry F. Peppard as sole Panelist in this proceeding.

 

Having reviewed the communications records, the Administrative Panel (the “Panel”) finds that the Forum has discharged its responsibility under Paragraph 2(a) of the Rules for Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (the “Rules”) “to employ reasonably available means calculated to achieve actual notice to Respondent” through submission of Electronic and Written Notices, as defined in Rule 1 and Rule 2.

RELIEF SOUGHT

Complainant requests that the domain name be transferred from Respondent to Complainant.

PARTIES’ CONTENTIONS

A. Complainant, in his Complaint and Additional Submission, alleges, among other things, the following:

Complainant owns and operates an online ministry educational program.

 

Complainant was the President of the “Institute in Basic Life Principles” (“IBLP” and the Respondent in this case) when IBLP first registered the domain name <embassyuniversity.com> in 2004, which registration has been renewed every year since.

 

Complainant left his role as President of IBLP in 2014, and thereafter filed to dissolve the “Embassy University Corporation,” thus ceding all claims it might have had to the EMBASSY UNIVERSITY name.

 

Complainant subsequently started a new online institution and registered it as “Embassy University” with the Florida Independent Educational Institution, and as a 501(c) non-profit corporation operating as “Embassy University” in Illinois.

 

Complainant has reached out to Respondent on multiple occasions to request that it transfer the <embassyuniversity.com> domain name to Complainant for use in his new business.

 

Respondent refuses to transfer the domain name, and instead uses it to redirect to its own website at EmbassyMedia.com, where Respondent hosts services that compete with the business of Complainant.

 

This use of the domain name has led to confusion among Internet users seeking Complainant’s services.

 

Complainant and Respondent are currently involved in litigation relating to their prior business relationship.

 

B. Respondent, in its Response to the Complaint, asserts, inter alia, as follows:

Complainant is now doing business via the domain name <Embassy.University>, which was registered for the first time on May 13, 2019.

 

Complainant has supplied no evidence that it has a registered trademark or service mark for the mark EMBASSY UNIVERSITY.

 

Complainant has failed to show that it has common law rights in the mark EMBASSY UNIVERSITY.

 

Respondent registered the domain name <embassyuniversity.com> on May 25, 2004.

 

Respondent uses, and has for years used, that domain name in connection with the marketing of a bona fide offering of educational services.

 

Respondent has not attempted to sell the domain name to Complainant or anyone else.

DISCUSSION AND FINDINGS
Paragraph 15(a) of the Rules for Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (the “Rules”) instructs this Panel to “decide a complaint on the basis of the statements and documents submitted in accordance with the Policy, these Rules and any rules and principles of law that it deems applicable.”

From our review of the submissions of the parties, it seems clear that this is not a dispute within the contemplation of the Policy, which is intended solely to address instances of “cyber-squatting,” defined as the abusive registration and use of Internet domain names. Rather, this is a dispute between former business partners, which, as appears from the pleadings, the parties are already aware should be confided to the jurisdiction of the appropriate local or national courts. See, for example, Summit Industries, Inc. v. Jardine Performance Exhaust Inc., D2001-1001 (WIPO October 15, 2001):

[T]he question presented is outside the purview of the UDRP, in that it involves questions of the extent of rights transferred and retained under a …[business]… agreement. Such questions should be determined … by a court of law. Accordingly, the Complaint must be dismissed.

See also Nintendo of America Inc. v. Alex Jones, D2000-0998 (WIPO November 17, 2000):

It is not the function of an ICANN Administrative Panel to resolve all issues concerning the use of intellectual property rights. Matters beyond the narrow purview of the Policy are for the courts of appropriate jurisdictions.

Further see Love v. Barnett, FA 944826 (Forum May 14, 2007):

A dispute, such as the present one, between parties who each have at least a prima facie case for rights in the disputed domain names is outside the scope of the Policy .… [T]he present case appears to hinge mostly on a business or civil dispute between the parties,…. Thus, the majority holds that the subject matter is outside the scope of the UDRP and dismisses the Complaint.

DECISION
For the reasons indicated, it is therefore hereby Ordered that the Complaint filed herein is DISMISSED.

 

Terry F. Peppard, Panelist

Dated: October 14, 2020

 


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