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Domain Arbitrator Blows Away More "Sucks" Addresses

by Steven Bonisteel

Rulings that will likely separate Internet-address claim-jumpers from domain names that add the word "sucks" to well- known corporate monikers are piling up under a speedy arbitration process designed to help rid the Web of "cybersquatters."

In the latest cases, rulings from an arbitrator assigned by the UN's World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) order five such addresses to be taken from a UK-based company called Purge I.T. Ltd.

The addresses all refer to companies with a presence in Britain: no-cost Internet service provider Freeserve (FreeserveSucks.com); retailer Dixon's (DixonsSucks.com); banks NatWest (NatWestSucks.com) and Standard Chartered (StandardCharteredSucks.com); and insurance and financial services firm Direct Line (DirectLineSucks.com).

WIPO's Arbitration and Mediation Center is one of four organizations around the world selected to adjudicate domain name squabbles under a streamlined resolutions process launched by the Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) late last year.

Last late month, another WIPO arbitrator ruled against a Canadian man who had snapped up such disparaging monikers as, Wal- MartCanadaSucks.com (with and without the hyphen), WalMartUKSucks.com, and WalMartPuertoRicoSucks.com.

The Wal-Mart case was the first test of such obvious protest appellations under ICANN's Uniform Domain-Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP) since a federal court ruling under America's new anti-cybersquatting laws earlier this year supported a Webmaster who was using the address LucentSucks.com.

However, despite the US case as a guideline, WIPO arbitrators are taking a different view.

While Wal-Mart protester Kenneth Harvey - a well-known Newfoundland author - argued his domains were examples of fair comment regarding the retailing giant, Purge I.T. took a different approach in its defense. In all five cases, it argued that it had reserved the derogatory domains in order to spare the companies the embarrassment of having someone like Harvey wield them in protest.

But arbitrator William Cornish, who decided all five of the Purge I.T. cases, was not impressed by the "white hat" claims. Cornish pointed out that Purge I.T. had requested substantial fees to turn the addresses over to companies in some of the cases.

In all UDRP cases, the arbitrators must find the addresses are clearly "identical with or confusingly similar to" the well-known names of those filing the complaints.

WIPO arbitrator Frederick Abbott, who decided the Wal-Mart "sucks" cases, argued that the judge officiating over the LucentSucks.com lawsuit, never clearly determined whether the existence of the word "sucks" in an address would eliminate confusion over ownership of the domain.

Since the international UDRP isn't concerned with US First Amendment rights to free speech, the arbitrators were primarily concerned with whether a Web user might mistake such an address for one that could lead the complainants' sites and whether the current owners were holding the domains in "bad faith."

More information on ICANN's UDRP can he found online here: http://www.icann.org/udrp/udrp.htm


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