Do you “own” your domain?

In the IT community of fellow geeks and nerds, if there is one thing we can all appreciate, it’s a good domain name. More often than not, we have one that personally represents us. My story, which is still in progress, is an interesting one.
Two years ago I registered from my personal AWS account. My intention was to use it for family email, and maybe eventually use it for a family photos/blog purpose. I had wanted to have a domain name with my, fairly unique, last name for a long time, so when I saw was available, I jumped at the opportunity. Well, life happens and I hadn’t made time to get it setup with my email or a website yet.
On March 5th I was cleaning up my personal email box and noticed that in my Spam folder I had essentially been served legal documents stating that Hallmark Licensing LLC (Hallmark cards) had filed an arbitration to take my domain away from me by force using UDRP. Stating basically that because I am not using it as a website, I am not known as “” or “hallmarktv”, and that they are “Hallmark” and should own this domain.

If I had been looking to make a buck off this I wouldn’t have sat on it for two years, I would have offered it to Hallmark or at a minimum posted it for sale. SO this wasn’t a case of cybersquatting. Here is an article that I appreciate was published about our situation with a little more detail:

The big message here is to be careful. Even when you legitimately pay for and register a domain, you are agreeing to this type of arbitration to be allowed through ICANN. The Complainant (Hallmark), in this case, paid the arbitration organization (ARDFORUM) for a single panel member to make the decision on this case. If I would have responded in time (remember, it went straight to my spam folder), I could have paid (~$1400) to have a 3 person panel decide my fate. I had 20 days to respond once they sent the email, along with 14 days for them to make their decision. So, in just over a month you can lose your domain if you aren’t paying attention.
At this point I missed my deadline and am talking to as many people as I can to find out if there is anything I can do. I am not in the position to start hiring a lawyer(s) to go to war over this, it’s just disappointing that somehow its legal for a corporation to just take something you owned, bought and paid for legitimately. It’s also disappointing that they decided to go this route to save a few bucks, instead of just professionally offering to purchase it from me.

This has definitely been a learning experience.

UPDATE: It looks like they just did the same thing to someone else with They had owned it for 19 years: : UDRP decision follows the steps of Hallmark.TV

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