Reverse Domain Name Hijacking: What It Is and How to Avoid It through a Domain Availability Check


Deciding on a domain name is both an exciting and challenging task that every website owner must undertake. A good domain name must sound interesting and be easy to remember while echoing the nature of the business. Aside from creativity, website administrators also need to turn on their investigative mode, which can be made easier with tools such as Domain Availability Check and Domain Monitor. WHOIS tools such as WHOIS History Search can also aid in the process.

The first step is always to check if the desired domain name is available, and the next course of action depends on the findings. For Gary Chupik, a performance and mindset coach, the next steps upon realizing that the domain elitemindset[.]com is already taken were as follows:

The Arbitration and Mediation International Forum tagged the case as one of reverse domain name hijacking, denying Chupik ownership of his desired domain name.

What Is Reverse Domain Name Hijacking?

Reverse domain name hijacking, also known as "reverse cybersquatting," occurs when a complainant attempts to use trademark protection in bad faith to obtain a domain name that someone else owns. In this case, the current owner obtained the lawful right to the disputed domain name.

There are currently 397 recorded cases of reverse domain name hijacking, most of which are due to retroactive bad faith or when the complainant abuses the UDRP process. Most of the cases show that the respondents owned the domain names before the complainants registered for trademarks. In the case of the disputed elitemindset[.]com, the respondent owned the domain name since April 18, 2017, while Gary Chupik registered for a trademark on January 30, 2019, after failing to negotiate a purchase in 2018.

In Chupik's case, filing a complaint was considered as a plan B since he did so after failing to secure the domain name at the price he wanted. The respondent even had a stronger case as Chupik's trademark was for "EM Elite Mindset" and not "Elite Mindset."

Our Investigative Tools: Domain Availability Check and Others

We ran the disputed domain name on Domain Availability Check and confirmed that it is indeed unavailable.

To see the WHOIS record of the domain, we ran it on WHOIS Search. The registrant details were, unfortunately, redacted for privacy. But we know from the details of the case that the respondent was Shant Sarkuni.

Chupik may have contacted the registrar to make his bid for the domain name. We then ran on WHOIS History Search and found (interestingly) that it had gone through six different domain owners from March 25, 2012, up to the present.

Chupik's LinkedIn profile reveals that he has been using the brand Elite Mindset since June 2016 so he could have monitored the domain using Domain Monitor to spot any changes in the WHOIS database. On April 6, 2016, the domain changed hands from a certain Michael Skalij of Scottsdale, Arizona, to Josiah Kalangie of Jakarta, Indonesia. The latter appeared to have owned the domain until March 20, 2017. On April 20, 2017, it changed owners again, this time, to the respondent Shant Sarkuni.

Had Chupik monitored the domain's availability, he could have received notifications about its impending expiration, and been able to purchase it before anyone else did or at least competed fairly during the bidding process.

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Whether or not there was a case of domain name hijacking in the dispute is anyone's opinion, although the Arbitration Forum believes that the respondent had legitimate rights to the domain. What we are driving at in this post is that if a person who wants to own an unavailable domain name does the following best practices, he/she can avoid legal proceedings:

Chupik's case did not only cost him money, but he also got tagged as someone who employed reverse domain name hijacking, which may not be suitable for his image as a performance coach.

Related topics: Cybercrime, Cybersecurity, Domain Management, Domain Names, Whois