Stelios Faces His Domain Waterloo
by Kieren McCarthy
Stelios Haji-Ioannou has backed down in his Napoleonic crusade against owners of "easy" domains, telling legitimate print-selling business Easyart.com that he is too busy suing other people to bother it - just weeks before court action was due to start.
However, while the self-titled man of the people has threatened to renew his "passing off" claim against Easyart when he has more time, under the law he would now have to apply to a judge for permission to do so. He would also have to produce further evidence that Easyart was in fact trading on the back of his name, which means highly dubious vox-pops are out the window.
Easyart CEO Simon Matthews is delighted and relieved. "Stelios has surrendered and we have won." Mr Matthews had vowed to fight Stelios all the way in order to protect his business, something that he was warned would cost him £50,000. "This was a David and Goliath fight. It is a good day for smaller companies who stand up to bullying tactics from large corporations," he said.
Mr Matthews also hopes this his victory will see others prepare to stand up to EasyGroup's universal claim on the word "easy". "We hope that this gives hope to the many other companies out there who are trading legitimately under the 'easy' name who have been threatened by this man," he said.
Over the past few years, EasyGroup has threatened a large number of "easy" domain owners, claiming that by even registering their domain, they are hoping to trade off the series of companies that have made him rich and famous - EasyJet, EasyCar, EasyInternetCafe. After the company failed to win an "easy" domain at arbitrator WIPO, it then threatened owners will immediate and expensive legal action.
Only two cases have even gone to court, one was settled and the other EasyGroup lost, but the sheer cost of the action has seen many domain name owners hand over their property.
When Mr Matthews became the object of the group's attentions, he vowed to fight all the way to the High Court to protect his business, which, he happily tells us, turned a profit for the first time at the end of 2002.
Whether Mr Haji-Ioannou will return to bullying domains out of hapless owners after his current legal problems with the OFT and British Phonographic Industry, we don't know, but for anyone willing to stand up to the multi-millionaire, Easyart's case adds another level of defence against hostile intentions.