Consolidation of Multiple Respondents: An Overview of Recent UDRP Decisions

January 10, 2023

Under the UDRP a complaint is generally filed by a trademark owner against the registrant of a disputed domain name. A complaint might also be filed against more domain name registrants if certain conditions are met.

In accordance with paragraph 10(e) of the Rules for Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy, “[a] Panel shall decide a request by a Party to consolidate multiple domain name disputes in accordance with the Policy and these Rules.”

In the application of UDRP, panels have reached consensus in that “[w]here a complaint is filed against multiple respondents, panels look at whether (i) the domain names or corresponding websites are subject to common control, and (ii) the consolidation would be fair and equitable to all parties. Procedural efficiency would also underpin panel consideration of such a consolidation scenario” (WIPO Overview of WIPO Panel Views on Selected UDRP Questions, Third Edition, section 4.11.2).

When assessing whether the consolidation against multiple respondents is appropriate, UDRP panels typically take into account various factors, that might be present in some combination in each case. I will look at recent WIPO decisions below, to see what situations justified the panels’ decisions to consolidate the proceedings in case of multiple registrants and which situations did not.

Situations Where Consolidation Was Allowed

In the WIPO case concerning the domain names <>, <>, <>, the panel concluded that the respondents must have acted collaboratively, and hence, all domain names are under common control, given that all the domain names in dispute previously resolved to practically identical websites, allegedly offering apparel and merchandise products of the complainants. The Panel also considered the redirections set up between the disputed domain names in reaction to the complainant’s takedown requests and that the disputed domain names were all registered recently in a short timeframe.

Other elements recently held by panels were, in addition to the use of the disputed domain names to the same website, the fact that the website was hosted on the same name servers and that it was updated on the same date (WIPO case no. D2022-3616, concerning the domain names <> and <>).

Similarly, the connection between the disputed domain names was based on the fact that the websites contained links related to the same third-party websites, such as in the WIPO case concerning the domain names <> and <>. In addition, the domain names in dispute resolved to website contents including the use of the same images of the complainant’s products and were registered with the same registrar within a short period of time.

Other factor was that the disputed domain names were registered with the same email address identified in the registrant contact details, such as in the WIPO case concerning the domain names <> and <>.

The similarity of the composition of the domain names was another aspect leading to a finding of a common control for the purposes of UDRP proceedings. In the WIPO case concerning the domain names <>, <>, <>, <>, the panel noted that “[e]ach of the Domain Names includes the Complainant’s SPLICE trademark alongside the terms “app”, “apps” or “corp”.” In addition, the panel took into account the proximity in the dates of registration of the disputed domain names, the identical content hosted historically at the websites connected to two of the domain names, while the other two resolved to inactive websites, as well as the fact that all domain names in dispute were registered with the same registrar. A similar decision in another WIPO case where consolidation of the disputes in relation to 72 domain names and over 20 respondents was allowed.

The fact that the domain names share an IP address was also a determining factor in another WIPO case, where the panel has ordered the consolidation with respect to multiple domain name registrants concerning the domain names <>, <>, <>, <> and <>.

In another recent case, concerning the domain names <>, <> and <>, the panel considered the following factors when allowing the consolidation: “the indication of the same street address in two websites and the same telephone number in the three websites operated under the disputed domain names, and the presence of the same logo on two of such websites, combined with the choice of the same Registrar and the same privacy service provider, and the registration in the same timeframe”. The panel noted that the contact details of the registrants were not the same and that there was no strong similarity in the layout of the websites at the domain names in dispute, but on the balance of probabilities it found the consolidation is warranted given the other above-mentioned factors. A similar decision in a recent WIPO case concerning the disputed domain names <> <>.

The fact that all disputed domain names were targeting the complainant’s trademarks resolving to almost identical websites and that the information disclosed for the respondents was false or incomplete for each individual respondent, with most information bearing similarities to that disclosed for the other respondents, grounded the panel’s decision to allow the consolidation in another recent UDRP case.

Situations Where Consolidation Was Not Allowed

On the other hand, a consolidation request might be rejected (without prejudice to the merits) where the overall circumstances of the case are insufficient to support a finding of common control.

In a recent UDRP case, the complainant invoked several arguments that would support a finding of common control. However, two of the respondents answered and denied connection with the other registrants/websites at the other disputed domain names. Those respondents provided details and arguments for which the consolidation would not be warranted in the case.

As such, the complainant had argued that the content of the websites demonstrate that the websites are subject to common control. Nevertheless, the panel found no substantiation of the correctness of such claim in the case file. The complainant had also argued that 11 of the 14 domain names in dispute consist of the word “only”. Nevertheless, in the circumstances of the case, the panel did not find this argument persuasive, “when that word is used in its descriptive sense, in combination with another descriptive word.” With respect to what appeared to be fictitious or incomplete addresses, the panel found no link between the irregularities, that would establish a common control. In addition, all the disputed domain names were registered on different dates over a period of almost two years. No other arguments or facts of the case supported, in the panel’s view, the request for consolidation, which was denied without prejudice.

Consolidation Partly Allowed

In a recent WIPO case, the panel decided to allow the consolidation request with respect to several domain names in dispute, while rejecting, without prejudice to the filing of separate UDRP complaint, the request with respect to the other ones.

As such, the panel allowed the consolidation request with respect to five of the eleven domain names in dispute. 

In those cases where consolidation was allowed, the panel found that those domain names were under common control, considering similarities in the registrant’s name, registrant’s contact details, registration date, delegation to the same nameservers, or composition of the domain names. 

With respect to the other domain names in dispute, the panel found no sufficient commonalities or links to allow the consolidation. The panel found “[..] no correlation between registrant names addresses, contact email addresses, nameservers, or registration dates”. The panel found that the registration dates are not sufficiently close to suggest common control “in the absence of other relevant commonalities in registrars, registration data, or configuration”. Likewise, the panel considered that the mere presence of the complainant’s trademark in the disputed domain names is insufficient to provide indication of common control. Also, even if the registrant contact details appear as randomly picked, invented or stolen, no relevant evidence was adduced, and in any event, this “would not by itself establish that the remaining disputed domain names […] are necessarily under common control without something more”. The argument that the disputed domain names must be under common control for lack of response to cease-and-desist letter was also unpersuasive according to the panel.

About Me

Mihaela Maravela is an experienced international arbitration counsel, commercial arbitrator and domain name panelist. She also acts as a transactional lawyer.



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