Panelist calls out Complainant for making “spurious allegations” against domain name owner.
Playhouse International, which fashions itself as a more “sex-worker friendly” version of OnlyFans, has lost a cybersquatting dispute it filed against the domain name playhouse.com. The panel found that the dispute was an attempt at reverse domain name hijacking.
Domain investor Stephen Marshall acquired the domain name in 2021. Playhouse International said it began operations in 2020, but it doesn’t appear to have registered or acquired any of its domain names until the following year and didn’t begin operations until after that.
Regardless of the dates, there was no proof that Marshall acquired the valuable dictionary word domain name to target the Complainant’s business.
World Intellectual Property Organization panelist Robert Badgley determined that the Complainant did not “come close” to showing the domain was registered and used in bad faith:
First, the evidence presented here tends to suggest that Respondent acquired the Domain Name before Complainant had made any use (and almost certainly any meaningful use) of the PLAYHOUSE mark. Respondent’s explanation for his motives and plans vis-à-vis the Domain Name are plausible, and are essentially uncontradicted in this record, and his denial of any knowledge of Complainant or the PLAYHOUSE mark is equally plausible. The word “playhouse” is a common word, and, as Respondent points out with search results, the term is widely used in its ordinary sense and having nothing to do with Complainant’s relatively new business.
He found reverse domain name hijacking for two reasons.
First, the Complainant misstated (or lied) about its first use of the term Playhouse as a source identifier for its business.
Second, it made “spurious allegations against Respondent” without trying to support them. For example, it said the Respondent was a “significant competitor,” but there’s nothing on the record to show that he competes in any way.
The Complainant’s founder, Hayden O’Halloran, represented himself in the dispute. Zak Muscovitch represented the domain name owner.
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