A recent UDRP case gave one of the harshest criticisms of domain registration privacy services rendered to date. See Ustream.TV, Inc. v. Vertical Axis, Inc., WIPO Case No. D2008-0598.
The majority of the Panel also finds that the use of a privacy shield in this case further supports its finding of bad faith registration. Although privacy shields might be legitimate in some cases – such as protecting the identity of a critic against reprisal – it is difficult to see why a PPC advertiser needs to protect its identity except to frustrate the purposes of the Policy or make it difficult for a brand owner to protect its trademarks against infringement, dilution and cybersquatting. In circumstances like this, the privacy shield may also allow registrants to transfer domain name registrations amongst themselves without any public record that there has been a transfer, thus allowing them to evade enforcement of legitimate third-party rights or to obstruct proceedings commenced under the Policy (see Sermo, Inc. v. CatalystMD, LLC, WIPO Case No. D2008-0647, which held that use of privacy shield can be “treated as evidence of bad faith . . . when serial registrants use privacy shields to mask each registrant’s actual date of registration”). Such use defies the Policy’s overriding objectives to preserve accountability for unlawful acts on the Internet and to curb the abusive registration of domain names and cybersquatting (see, e.g., Fifth Third Bancorp v. Secure Whois Information Service, WIPO Case No. D2006-0696; HSBC Finance Corporation v. Clear Blue Sky Inc., WIPO Case No. D2007-0062).
It didn’t help that the Respondent in this case seems to have pretty clearly provided perjurious testimony. Unfortunately, that kind of thing is not rare. See If you are going to lie in a UDRP case – at least be smart about it! Hydentra, LP. v. Xedoc Holding SA.
Despite the clear perjury and apparent bad faith, panelist David Sorkin dissented. No big surprise there given the hundreds of thousands of dollars he has made by being selected by respondents as one of their panelists-of-choice.