EasyGroup continues bizarre, time-travelling domain crusade

Yet this time it's slapped by WIPO for 'reverse domain hijacking'

easyGroup is at it again. Despite having been told repeatedly that it does not own everything that includes the word "easy," the budget company took the owner of the domain 'easygroup.com' to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) arguing that it violated its trademark.

The domain was registered by a company called Easy Group Holdings, based in Hong Kong, but Easy Group (the UK version) feels that its rights override those of any other company.

easyGroup (the UK version) also appears to believe that its trademark rights are so important that they can travel back in time.

The domain 'easygroup.com' was registered back in 1998 - a full two years before Stelios Haji-Ioannou even set up his easyGroup (UK) company - a fact that the WIPO panelists were not too impressed to learn about in the respondent's brief.

"The Panel Majority is troubled by Complainant’s conduct in this case," the decision reveals. "Complainant does not appear to have been entirely up-front about the relevant facts – notably, that it did not establish rights in the mark at issue until a few years after the Domain Name registration by Respondent."

easyGroup also tried its most recent gambit - arguing that because it has other trademarks that contain the word "easy" that it should also be granted control over domain names that contain the word, even if they don't match its trademark.

Incredibly a single WIPO panelist actually agreed with this creative interpretation of trademark law over the domain 'easytrain.com'.

Thou shalt not hijack

In this 'easygroup.com' case, the respondent paid to have a three-person panel review the claim and they found that easyGroup had been engaged in "reverse domain hijacking" - basically, making knowingly false claims in order to try to grab control of a domain name.

"It is difficult to see how Complainant could have expected to prevail given that it did not acquire rights in the mark at issue until after the Domain Name was registered," says the decision. "It appears to have used this proceeding in an effort to obtain a domain name in a manner not warranted by the Policy. The Panel Majority therefore finds this to be a case of Reverse Domain Name Hijacking."

Incredibly, one of the panelists - Jane Lambert - dissented from the decision and even argued that if it were up to her she would have transferred the domain over to easyGroup (the UK version).

This is far from the first time that easyGroup has embarked on a ridiculous effort to get hold of a domain name with the word "easy" in. Following a largely successful crusade through WIPO a decade ago, domain owners started fighting back against easyGroup and decisions started going against the company.

The company then went to the law courts, where it was told again that it did not have the rights to the word "easy". But that didn't prevent the company from making legal threats against owners of 'easy' domains. Again, it abused the process so frequently that domain owners started fighting back again - and winning.

After a break of nearly 10 years, it seems that easyGroup has come back to WIPO in the hope that no one remembers. Except this time, and we believe for the first time, WIPO has found against it on the grounds that it was engaged in reverse domain hijacking. Which should lend even greater weight to what we suspect will be more efforts by this company to force legitimate domain holders to hand over their property. ®

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