The National Arbitration Forum recently issued a decision on June 24th, 2013 that involved what we have seen to be a fairly regular factual dispute. In particular, the complainant had retained a web developer to create its website. When the complainant failed to pay the web developer, the web developer changed the website available at the domain name. In particular, the web developer made the webpage resolve to content that stated that the website was paused for non-payment of an overdue invoice, and that invoice amount was for $1500. Interestingly, the complainant had transferred the domain name to the web developer as part of the project. As is not uncommon, the complainant simply did not know that it should not retain registration of the domain name for reasons like this. The UDRP (Uniform Domain-Name Dispute-Resolution Policy) panelist determined that the respondent's request for the domain name and use to display that there was an overdue payment, amounted to a bad faith registration and bad faith use, as is required under the UDRP. Therefore, the UDRP panelists decided in favor of the complainant and ordered transfer of the domain name, namely AlaskaHealthFair.org.
This decision may come as a surprise to some, in light of the fact that it is a fact pattern that is not necessarily limited to traditional cybersquatting. Instead, it involves contractual issues, namely the breach of contract to pay a web developer. However, this UDRP decision may be used as precedent in the future to resolve domain name disputes that involve factual scenarios similar to this. Nevertheless, a domain name attorney will be in the best position to analyze particular facts and determine whether or not the UDRP is the best course of action.