Nishan Bombs Bid for

IP storage switch vendor thwarted after trying to 'hijack' domain name from its UK owner UPDATED 8/01 8:30AM

July 31, 2003

4 Min Read
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Nishan Systems Inc.'s three-year campaign to secure the rights to ended with a thundering crash in May after an international arbitration body ruled that the IP storage switch company had tried to "hijack" the domain name in bad faith.

This spring, Nishan filed a complaint with the Geneva-based World Intellectual Property Organization, which mediates domain name disputes. Its complaint alleged that the owner of -- one Angela Nishan Bindra, who lives in the U.K. -- has no rights to, or legitimate interest in, the domain name.

On May 1, 2003, WIPO denied Nishan's request to obtain the rights to, ruling that its petition constituted "reverse domain name hijacking," which the group defines as using the domain name dispute resolution policy "in bad faith to attempt to deprive a registered domain name-holder of a domain name." The text of the ruling is available here.

A Nishan spokesman says that the company had tried to buy the domain name from the registered owner a few years ago but claims the owner "would only sell it at an outrageous sum," which Nishan Systems declined to do. The company, believing it had a legitimate claim to, took the matter to WIPO for resolution -- and lost. And that, according to Nishan, was the end of that.

But a representative of trc.NET, the Miami-based ISP that hosts Bindra's Website, tells a very different story.Ellis Goldberg, manager of trc.NET's European office in London, says that Nishan had been "harassing her [Bindra] for three years... It's obscene what these guys tried to do."

According to Goldberg, the law firm representing Nishan Systems in the matter, Pillsbury Winthrop LLP, tried to intimidate "everyone and anyone" associated with this case. "Almost immediately before they incorporated and had a trademark on Nishan Systems, they started calling her up," he says. "I got involved in it because I couldn't believe this company was acting like this." Goldberg adds that Pillsbury Winthrop even sent a box of "legal paperwork" to Bindra's mother, who had nothing to do with the domain name dispute, at her home address.

In its WIPO complaint, Nishan claimed that the owner of originally offered to sell the domain name for $10,000, then subsequently increased the asking price to $300,000. However, notes the WIPO ruling, "No evidence was produced to substantiate any of these claims." Goldberg asserts that Bindra was never interested in selling the domain name; he says when Nishan Systems was attempting to negotiate to buy the domain name, the company offered $2,000.

One of the main factors that swung the matter in Bindra's favor was that she had registered on August 22, 1997 -- more than a year before Nishan Systems was founded. Nishan registered the domain name on November 13, 1998.

While WIPO agreed with Nishan Systems that is "confusingly similar to the Complainants registered trademarks," it concluded Bindra has a legitimate right to the domain name and said there was no evidence that she registered or used it in bad faith.Another tactic employed by Nishan was to claim that the word "nishan" comes from the ancient Urdu language and means "mark, sign, signal, emblem, target, scar or trace," and that the term has "no known meaning in any other 'common' language." Bindra and Goldberg disputed this, saying "nishan" has meanings in Pakistani, Punjabi, Chinese, Turkish, and Armenian, and that it is, variously, the name of a Bollywood movie, an Indian political party, and a common boys’ name.

"It was an insulting claim they were trying to make," says Goldberg, who presented Bindra's case to the WIPO arbitration panel. "The ironic thing is, there were all these people in California calling her up and telling her that she made it up... I was trying to restore her faith in Americans."

Judging by the image of the Kathakali dancer now posted on Bindra's site -- dressed in a costume of the traditional southern Indian dance theater -- the last laugh in this indecorous disagreement is on Nishan Systems.

Figure 1:

— Todd Spangler, US Editor, Byte and Switch

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