Sealed Court Order Used To Transfer Out A Recent Acquisition

Irieman

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I’m seeking advice about what can be done to reverse what seems to be an attempt to steal one of my domains.

First let me state that the domain in question is a city+keyword domain and as generic as GEO domains can get and there are a two cities around the world that have is name, the main one is in Europe. Prior to buying it at auction in July I searched for trademarks, UDRPs and WIPO disputes. The domain is clean as a whistle, nothing related comes up in any search I do, not even Google. I have never been contacted by the investor in question, nor have I been contacted by anyone representing him… in fact I have never been contacted by anyone concerning this domain except GoDaddy. I can’t find any information linking this person to my domain.

Yesterday I received an email with the following message from GoDaddy:

"We're sorry you transferred your domain name(s) away from GoDaddy. We are committed to providing quality services and products and hope that we met your needs.”

At first I thought this was some sort of phishing attempt, but a couple minutes later the another email arrived with the following message:

"Per a sealed court order, one or more domain names listing you as the Registrant has been transferred by the registry to another registrar for management.

Please contact the court or Plaintiff Attorney directly regarding this court dispute."

I checked the email headers an it seemed legitimate, so I went to GoDaddy and since there was no record or message anywhere stating the domain that was transferred out I had to search for it.

How am I supposed to contact the court or Plaintiff Attorney if I have no information about who they are? I have never seen any claim filed for this domain or against me so I have no idea what this whole mess is about.

I did a whois search and found out who the new registrant was and Googled him to find out more. Still nothing even remote linking him to my domain, but I did find out is that this was done by a quite well know and respected (at least until now) domain investor who has been featured in dnJournal.

I would have expected at least a friendly email stating his claim, not some sleazy attempt to hijack my domain.

The domain was transferred to Uniregistry, so I sent an email to the “new” registrant and Uniregistry asking them to please provide me with information I need to dispute this transfer. I also filed a transfer dispute with GoDaddy but feel that it was probably a waste of time.

So far no replies from anyone.

I guess if I had my domains at a non-US based registrar it would have been slightly more difficult for the domain to be transferred out like this without any knowledge of a dispute/claim for the domain.

Can anyone advise me on the actions needed for me to see what is in that court order or get my domain back?
 

katherine

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So who's the new holder ? Is he a member here by any chance ? What is the domain in question ?
 

mvl

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Well, that is an interesting story. Since this was a recent acquistion, when did you acquire it, and do you have full contact details of the seller? Could it have been a stolen domain or is that out of the question?
 

Irieman

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Thanks for your replies.

@kate
If I state the domain then it will be obvious who the other person is, I'm first trying to settle this without naming and shaming. I'm not sure if he is a member here, nothing comes up in my searches, but I know he is a member of Donna Mahony's DomainBoardroom as he mentions it on his Linkedin profile . Before you ask I don't have a Linkedin account so can't use that to contact him.

@mvl
I acquired the domain on the 20th of July and believe it was from a pre-release auction, but it could have been listed by the previous owner. I have checked the whois history on a few websites and I don't see the "new registrant" listed as a past owner. I really doubt that this was a stolen domain, but you never know.

I presume he could be traveling and that is the reason for not replying to my email, I will also try and contact him via his website. I don't mind if he has a legitimate claim to the domain, but it's the manner in which it was removed from my account, without giving me any information whatsoever, nothing, not even the name of the court or the plaintiff attorney I'm supposed to be able to contact to dispute this transfer.

Has anyone else had a similar experience?
 

Irieman

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The only logical explanation is that there must have been an ongoing court case against the previous owner (before me) and GoDaddy simply transferred the domain even though I'm not the same person the case was against.

Imagine I had flipped the domain and it was removed from the buyers account! I the only correct course of action would be for me to refund the buyer, but couldn't they also take legal action against me for the loss of their new domain?
 

Irieman

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I finally got a reply from the person I thought was the plaintiff, it turns out he is the fiduciary in this case. I haven't gotten any more information on what is going on, but at least I now have a chance to get the domain back.
 

Gerry

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Buying the name at auction...well, there must have been an ongoing case against this name.

What is happening to you is a fear I have had for quite some time. My fear has been in the event I purchase a name, whether from previous owner or auction, and I have to surrender that name...shouldn't the previous owner or auction house be liable to refund the money? These auction sites have been getting away with this far too long.
 

Irieman

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Small but interesting update, I received emails from both Uniregistry and GoDaddy concerning the strange transfer.

They both explained that the court order was presented to Verisign, the .com and .net registry, who in turn notified them that they should transfer a large set of domains from GoDaddy to Uniregistry. As the court order is sealed, neither registrar was provided court details, a case number nor other information regarding the dispute.

@Gerry
They are not to blame in this case, but this shows that recently acquired domains CAN be removed from your account if the previous owner is in legal trouble.

Speaking of that I did a little research and the previous owner seems to have had a portfolio of over a hundred names, everyone of them I checked had been seized and their business website is down.
 

TheLegendaryJP

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Well that explains it.

Keep in mind I have found that drop companies do not care at all if they sell you a name they know is in dispute be in via a claim or lawsuit. This has been shown...
 

Irieman

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I'm glad announce the domain has been given back to me.

I was told that the mistake was probably due to incorrect whois info, but this is a false claim as I always keep that info up-to-date. I presume they where using some service that caches whois results for some time. Any seizure should only be done using live whois data, not some crappy service that allows mistakes like this to happen where domains are removed from peoples accounts well over a month after they were acquired.
 

katherine

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Good to hear that the matter was resolved :)
Scary stuff for sure.
 

Gerry

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I was told that the mistake was probably due to incorrect whois info, but this is a false claim as I always keep that info up-to-date. I presume they where using some service that caches whois results for some time. Any seizure should only be done using live whois data, not some crappy service that allows mistakes like this to happen where domains are removed from peoples accounts well over a month after they were acquired.
Since there were several names, they were more intent on seizing the domains, not verifying WHOIS. Quite an ordeal but glad it worked out for you.
 
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