Penn State loses UDRP in expired domain confusion

Panelist was confused by creation date in Whois record of direct-transfer expired domain.

PennState logo with lion on blue background

What happens when your UDRP panelist doesn’t understand the lifecycle of expired domains? Here’s one such case.

Pennsylvania State University previously used the domain nardep.info for its National Agricultural and Rural Development Policy Center website. It later decided to move its web presence to a directory on its website at aese.psu.edu/nardep.

Set aside the fact that it should have just renewed the domain and forwarded it to its website. Instead, it let the domain expire and someone registered it.

It would be fair for someone else to register the domain upon expiration, depending on how they use it. The person who registered the domain has copied the NARDeP logo and some of its content and added links to personal injury websites.

That’s bad faith use despite the university’s decision to let the domain expire.

But panelist James Bridgeman SC doesn’t understand the lifecycle of an expired domain, so he was confused as to why the current Whois record showed a 2012 creation date, which is when the university originally registered the domain. On the issue of bad faith, Bridgeman wrote:

The WhoIs information adduced as evidence in the Complaint and confirmed by the Registrar when responding to the Forum’s request for verification of the registration details of the disputed domain name in the course of this Complaint states that the disputed domain name was registered on August 2, 2012. This is the time when Complainant claims to have first used the NARDeP name and mark and subsequently used the mark for 8 years.

Complainant has asserted that it in August 2020 it opted not to renew the registration when it “elected to move the webpages for its NARDeP Center to Complainant’s subpages for Complainant’s College of Agricultural Sciences

Notwithstanding that the uncontested evidence is that Complainant has no connection or affiliation with Respondent, the evidence before this Panel is that the disputed domain name was registered in August 2012.

It follows that the registration in issue was made by Complainant and not Respondent. There is no evidence of any registration by, re-registration by, or even transfer of ownership of the disputed domain name to, Respondent or any other party in August 2020. The evidence is that the 2012 registration was updated on September 14, 2020 and the expiration date is August 2, 2021.

Complainant has therefore failed to prove that the disputed domain name was registered in bad faith and the application must be refused.

Anyone versed in expired domains understands what happened here. The domain was registered at GoDaddy. Upon expiration, GoDaddy auctioned the domain name and directly transferred it to the winning bidder, so the domain’s creation date remains the original one. This seems like a case where the panelist should have requested clarification before rendering a decision.

Of course, the university should have also considered what happens to an expired domain that was used for an active website. It should have never let the domain expire.

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Original article: Penn State loses UDRP in expired domain confusion

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