Air Serbia lost its domain name and fails to take it back.


Serbian national air carrier, Air Serbia, was first established some 90 years ago under Aeroput, later (in 1947) rebranded into Jugoslovenski aero-transport, later Jat Airways and now is known as Air Serbia. Since 1947 all the way to 2013  company used JAT (short from Jugoslovenski aero-transport ) as their brand name.  In 2013, the company was privatized and Etihad bought 49% of shares.

Company  website was also jat.com (since 1997) until they switched to airserbia.com

I personally got interested in domain jat.com since they redirected jat.com to their new site and I had the feeling that they really didn’t care that much about that nice 3 letter domain. I tried to get in touch with a person that registered the domain but never got an answer. the person listed on domain WHOIS data was IT engineer in Air Serbia.

In 2015 I sent an Email to that IT Infrastructure Engineer expressing my interest in domain (JAT.COM) without any expectation. I basically wanted to check if they plan to sell it or not. In case they plan to drop the domain I would just place a backorder and wait. I honestly did not expect that IT guy wouldn’t know anything about it but I also kindly asked him to point me to the right person in case he is not the man in charge. I never got any reply.

So I thought to myself, there are 3 options:

– They are not selling domain (of course)

– IT guy couldn’t care less about answering Email

– Someone hacked his Email account and he is using other Email account now.

Why did I think it may be hacked? Well, when I searched for his name one of the first results was a page about spam. His Email was associated with spam activity on 60 web sites. This is according to cleantalk.org

But I forgot about this domain and decided to just check out the status once in a while.

Fast forward to 2017, exactly March 2017. This is the month when JAT.COM domain was due for a renewal. But that renewal never happened and someone “caught” domain and this was done by a person in Singapore. At least that’s what new WHOIS data says.

I was shocked,  to say the least. Why on Earth did they never answer my mail, and now all of a sudden they decided to drop this valuable domain? If you don’t know the value of such a nice 3 letter .COM domain let me tell you that floor price for 3 letter .COMs are in $20,000 range. But when you have such a nice looking, even pronounceable, 3 letter domain…the sky is the limit. But $50,000 is guaranteed.

Besides this value there is also SEO value for this domain since it is very old domain with a lot of high quality backlinks.

If we just put aside $50K-$100K price tag and SEO value, the biggest value is the brand protection and history of the company. They flushed company history down the drain because they didn’t pay $15 yearly renewal.

If you ever owned a domain you know that you get numerous Emails from registrar (company where you register a domain) where they remind you that you need to pay a renewal fee. They send at least 5 of these Emails to contact that was used to register domain. This is where (again) I think that Email used as contact was not used anymore within Air Serbia company since it was either hacked or/and neglected/changed.

And now, the shocker.

If losing valuable domain wasn’t enough they made another mistake. They decided to file for WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization) arbitration. WIPO is not an organization that is going to fall for fancy lawyers and stupid excuses. Looks like Air Serbia thought they will.

The new owner of JAT.COM is a random person from Singapore (at least that’s what it says in WHOIS data) but it could also be a Chinese person who is into domaining. That random person never used JAT.COM especially not in bad faith. A blank Coming Soon type of landing page pointing to a hosting company is there and that is all. They are not selling domain and they are not using domain in bad faith.

Air Serbia hired a team of lawyers ( Zivko Mijatovic & Partners ) to represent them at WIPO. If these lawyers wanted to be fair and if (as they say on their site) were experts in IP and Domain protection they would know that they will lose this case.

To succeed, Air Serbia had to prove all of the below:

(i) the disputed domain name is identical or confusingly similar to a trademark or service mark in which the Complainant has rights;

(ii) the Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the disputed domain name; and

(iii) the disputed domain name has been registered and is being used in bad faith.

The only thing Air Serbia managed to prove is that :”… disputed domain name is confusingly similar to the Complainant’s trademark” Well, of course it is, since your name (or rather old name) is JAT.

Other than that they did nothing and submitted random arguments that I won’t be writing about here since entire case is laughable (you can read the decision here).

One of the main arguments in this case was that JAT is a known company name and unregistered trademark. The thing with JAT is that company changed the name and dropped domain and it is not known worldwide. The other thing is that (and in my eyes the most important fact) this is a 3 letter domain. Here is what WIPO said about it:

…the Panel considers that it is entirely possible to contemplate a good faith use of a three character domain name, such as the disputed domain name, which does not in any way target the Complainant’s rights. It has long been recognized that such domain names may be capable of multiple uses

If we look at some similar cases (let us take BMW as an example) where registrant registered domain(s) in bad faith (for example domain B.MW) for sole purpose of selling it to either Complainant (in that case Bayerische Motoren Werke AG) or someone else it was easy for WIPO to order that the disputed domain name is transferred to the Complainant.

Here is a little suggestion

Treat domains as you treat your property, because domains are property. Hire people that understand domains, their value and how are they registered. Do not place your company history into the hands of IT engineer. Do not hire morons!

As for Air Serbia, I suggest you this:

1. Find out how exactly did domain expire

2. Which Email account was used as WHOIS contact in the first 3 months of 2017.

3. If Email account that was used as contact is still alive check Inbox/Outbox messages from January-March 2017 (and previous months if needed)

4. Hire a person (domain broker) that will get in touch with current domain owner.