On 5 February 2014 Rob van Eck, a Dutch cyclist and web designer in the cycling industry, registered a new generic top level domain ("gTLD"), canyon.bike, via domain registrar GoDaddy and parked it using the registrar’s own parking service where it featured sponsored listings related to the domain’s keyword (including one for “Mountainbikes.”)
Unfortunately for Van Eck, Canyon Bicycles GmBH of Koblenz, Germany, filed a complaint regarding his registration of the new gTLD via the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center, which is then forwarded to the registrar for verification in connection with the disputed domain name. This case is notable because it is the first UDRP concerning a gTLD.
Canyon Bicycles is an international manufacturer of racing, mountain, and triathlon bicycles and has been operating under the name since 2001 (the company itself was founded in 1985 under a different name). Canyon Bicycles operates in 16 countries, including the Netherlands. Canyon currently has ownership of numerous trade marks for the term “Canyon” in relation to bicycles (including International Trademark (word) No. 687879, CANYON, registered on January 2, 1998, for goods and services in classes 11 and 12.)
Canyon asserted that the canyon.bike domain name is similar to their trade mark, and so would lead to confusion, that Van Eck had no rights or legitimate interests in the domain name, and that the disputed domain name is being used in bad faith.
Canyon argued that Van Eck is knowledgeable with regard to the Internet and has exhibited interest and special knowledge in cycling, citing the respondent’s professional and social media websites showing involvement in both Internet and cycling-related projects, such as the design of bicycle wheel decals and the creation of an online portal for bicycle shops.
Canyon further noted that the canyon.bike domain name incorporates the CANYON trademark in its entirety, and added that the suffix of a domain name is irrelevant when assessing similarity or identity, but also submits that the “.bike” extension further reinforces the similarity to their trade mark and core products.
Canyon said that the timing of the gTLD registration makes it inconceivable that Van Eck was unaware of Canyon and its trade mark, and that there was no legitimate explanation for the registration other than to mislead users searching for Canyon’s products and services.
Van Eck also made a UDRP rookie error. He wrote to the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center on 12 February 2014, in which he inquired as to whether there is a possibility to settle the matter in which “the company pays me for my domain”. This supported the allegation that he had no actual interest in the disputed domain name except to profit from Canyon's goodwill.
Van Eck’s defence was that he merely registered the domain in order to expand his network and “get in (friendly) contact with Canyon,” curiously adding that many people in the cycling industry are unaware of the new batch of gTLDs that include the “bike” extension, and had registered some domain names in order to “protect companies” from domain squatting. He further noted that the complaint was filed against him before he was able to contact Canyon, and that it is his belief if Canyon went to him directly, they would have “talked about” the disputed domain and he would have relinquished ownership without recourse to the policy. Van Eck notes that he registered the domain with good intentions.
Canyon was successful in its complaint, and the disputed domain name was transferred to them under paragraphs 4(i) of the Policy and 15 of the Rules. This decision emphasises the need to monitor online brand hijacking especially now that new gTLDs have launched.