Ethiopian eco friendly footwear company, SoleRebels has won an arbitration proceeding in a domain name dispute against Tal Dehtiar, the owner of Oliberte shoe company.
SoleRebels filed a lawsuit through U.S.based attorneys (Alex P. Garens of Grossman, Tucker, Perreault & Pfleger PLLC of New Hampshire) on August 27, 2013 alleging that Toronto-based Dehtiar hijacked his African competitor’s (SoleRebel’s) e-commerce address.
The case was filed with the National Arbitration Forum which helps resolve domain name disputes in accordance with the Uniform Domain-Name Dispute-Resolution Policy (UDRP).
SoleRebels’ complaint with the National Arbitration Forum asserts that Tal Dehtiar had no right or legitimate interest in the domain name because he has no right to the SoleRebels trademark.
Speaking on the issue, Bethlehem Alemu, Founder and CEO of Sole Rebels, told Tadias Magazine – an Ethiopian-American community based magazine – that it was with great shock and revulsion that SoleRebels found that Dehtiar had registered the soleRebels.com domain and then redirected all web traffic to his company’s website selling their shoes.
“This act was deliberate sabotage designed to hurt our company and our brand,” she said.
In his defense, Tal Dehtiar argued that he had personally registered the SoleRebels.com domain name earlier this year after he purchased the domain name for $500 via a 7-day auction on Godaddy.com on June 22, 2013.
“The website SoleRebels.com was available a few months back during a random search I did online. It was bought by me personally, not Oliberte, without any intention to harm, upset or use it against SoleRebels.”
“If the website was so important to SoleRebels, I would have assumed they would have tried to buy it asap, but they didn’t. Even now, if you try and look for solerebelsfootwear.com it is actually available via auction,” he claimed.
But Bethlehem said the arbitration panel has found Dehtiar statement false and that he had registered and used SoleRebel.com in bad faith.
Bethlehem said this is because Tal Dehtiar had visited the Sole Rebels facility in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia as far back as 2009 in advance of launching his own shoe factory called Oliberte Limited Ethiopia Branch.
“It must be understood that Tal Dehtiar did not appear out of the blue. He has known SoleRebels for many years prior to starting his company. The same person who illicitly registered our trademarked name as his own domain posed as a buyer so he could gain access to myself and to survey along with his staff our operations on site over a period of weeks,” she said.
According to Bethlehem, Tal Dehtiar acted deliberately, knowing that SoleRebels is a globally registered trademark in the footwear market.
“This deliberate act therefore not only violates the Anti Cybersquatting Consumer Protection Act and the Lanham Act, but more fundamentally it also violated the fair trade standards regarding IP and Anti-competitive actions designed to harm another businesses,” she said.
“It isn’t the first time someone has tried to threaten our Intellectual Property and we know it won’t be the last. But at least the record is clear – mess with our brand and we will take action against you. And win.”
“For Ethiopia and Africa to truly prosper, creating potent homegrown globally successful brands is key and protecting those brands is an equally crucial piece of that endeavor,” she concluded.