.CA Domain Names Held To Be Personal Property
A recent Ontario Superior Court of Justice decision (Court File No. CV-13-480391) has held that .CA domain names are personal property and as such are subject to the rules that govern any other type of personal property, including those against wrongful conversion. Perhaps more importantly, the case appears to stand for the proposition that title in .CA domain names exists independently of the registration of those domain names.
17 .CA domain names were in issue, including mold.ca and mould.ca. All were registered by Mr. Sullivan in his own name for the benefit of a company that he co-founded with Mr. Dalrymple, called Mold.Ca Inc. (Mold.Ca Inc.) The business of Mold.Ca Inc., not surprisingly, involves mold inspection and removal services in the Greater Toronto area. Sullivan purchased the domain names using the company’s credit card but listed himself as the Registrant of all of the domain names, rather than Mold.Ca Inc., unbeknownst to Dalrymple.
Sullivan parted ways with Dalrymple and Mold.Ca Inc. a year later, while Mold.Ca Inc. continued to carry on its business, as before. Unbeknownst to Dalrymple, Sullivan retained the domain name registrations and the passwords for the domain name registrations and then subsequently transferred the domain name registrations to a third party (Romelus). Once Dalrymple found out about the above events, he commenced a Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA) Dispute Resolution Proceeding (CDRP) against Romelus. The CDRP proceeding were unsuccessful because there was no evidence that the domain names had been registered by Romelus in bad faith (they hadn’t been), nor was there evidence that they were being used for other than legitimate purposes by Romelus.
Following the failed CDRP proceeding, Romelus transferred the domain names back to Sullivan and Sullivan began using them in a competing business to that of Mold.Ca Inc. Undaunted by its loss in the CDRP, this turn of events led to Mold.Ca Inc. to commence proceedings in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice. Finding in favour of Mold.Ca Inc., the Court held that “the issue is a simple matter of property law”, whereby title to the domain names belongs to the company, which had been wrongly converted by Sullivan. The Court therefore ordered that all of the domain names, including all administrative information and passwords, be transferred to Mold.Ca Inc.