Case No Domain(s) Complainant Respondent Ruleset Status
Joseph Schlessinger, Ph.D. / Harold O Connor, JS Players Association - TRANSFER


Yale Professor Joseph Schlessinger Stops The Criticism

30-Jul-2009 07:09am by DefendMyDomain

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Darren Spielman


In the recent domain name dispute decision of Joseph Schlessinger, Ph.D. v. / Harold O Connor, JS Players Association (WIPO D2009-0695, July 21, 2009), a single member Panel was faced with a dispute over the domain The Respondent failed to provide a response. Complainant is Dr. Joseph Schlessinger is the Chairman of the Department of Pharmacology, at Yale University School of Medicine. He has hundreds of academic publications and often serves as a lecturer, consultant, book author, and has served on the editorial boards of a number of scientific journals. His biography can be viewed here.

Paragraph 4(a) of the ICANN UDRP Policy states that Complainant must prove (i) the domain name is identical or confusingly similar to a trademark or service mark in which the complainant has rights; and (ii) respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the domain name; and (iii) the domain name has been registered and is being used in bad faith.

The Panel addressed the first element, noting that Complainant does not have any registered trademark in his name, but that he makes claim for common law rights based upon being famous in the scientific community. The Panel found he established common law rights noting, “Complainant is a person of considerable academic stature who has acquired ample secondary rights in his personal name, particularly in the fields of scientific discovery, development and authorship.” The Panel found the domain was identical to Complainant’s mark.

Moving to the second element, the Panel notes that Respondent is not commonly known by the domain. Interestingly though, the Panel explains as follows:

In the terms of paragraph 4(c)(i) of the Policy the Complainant says that the corresponding website conducts no bona fide business but is in fact a criticism site with defamatory content. In the terms of paragraph 4(c)(iii) of the Policy the Complainant says that the use of the website is not fair, as would be required under the Policy, because again, it is a criticism site that in the Complainant’s view exploits the Complainant’s name and is dressed up to appear initially legitimate.

Despite noting that Complainant acknowledges the use of the domain was criticism, the Panel still made the following finding:

The Respondent could perhaps be said to offer a service, whereby he tables his comments about the Complainant. But by the Respondent’s use of the Complainant’s mark in full and in isolation in the domain name without authority, such use is neither bona fide nor fair in the view of the Panel…. In the present case, the Respondent may well be entitled to express its opinion about the Complainant on a website, but in the Panel’s view such entitlement does not extend here to a right or legitimate interest under the Policy in doing so through a domain name that is identical and clearly confusingly similar to the Complainant’s trademark.

The Panel found Respondent lacked any rights or legitimate interest. Moving to the last element, bad faith, the Panel takes us through an interesting factual analysis of the content on Respondent’s site.

[T]he Respondent’s website in the space of only three pages ignores most of the positive dimensions of the Complainant’s stature and concentrates almost exclusively on two uncomplimentary (and contested) allegations distilled out of the Complainant’s life. Likewise these negative aspects predominate in the keywords supplied for the attraction of search engine hits. The Panel recognises the principles of freedom of speech and is not in a position here to assess the veracity or otherwise of the Respondent’s allegations or, on the other hand, whether the purported facts may otherwise be legitimately in the public domain. The key point is that the Respondent’s website posted at a domain name identical to the Complainant’s mark is targeted specifically at the Complainant’s name and mark and uses the domain name to focus on the denigration of the Complainant.

The Panel disclaims any view as to the validity of the content posted on the disputed domain and concludes with the following statement:

Regardless of how benign or otherwise the material, the over-riding consideration in this Panel’s view is that the Respondent’s undoubted freedom of speech within the law, unfettered as it is except by his ability to pay for any possible consequences, does not grant him authority to register a domain name identical and clearly confusingly similar to the Complainant’s mark and use it to point to a website clearly derogatory of the Complainant’s mark.

Ultimately, the Panel found the Complainant satisfied all three elements and ordered the domain be TRANSFERRED.

DefendMyDomain Commentary: We normally do not provide our opinion about whether a domain decision was right or wrong, but this one appears to be wrong. It is clear the web site was used for commentary and criticism without commercial gain. Maybe the only criticism against the web site is that it did not contain a disclaimer on the page (which some panels have previously found helpful in finding for Respondents). This appears to be a classic “sucks” case. However, when the Complainant admits it is a criticism site and when a Panel talks about First Amendment rights, yet still decides to transfer the domain, we begin to question the whole UDRP process.


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