Ever visited a website that has a domain name that includes "sucks" in it? How about a gripe site, or a web site that allegedly attacks, exposes, or complains about a person, company, service, or product? The amount of damage such a site can do to the individual or company whose trademark is contained in the domain name is staggering. Gripe sites are becoming more common. The best way to protect your trademark or brand,a nd avoid domain disputes, is to defensively register the most common variations of your domain name so that cybersquatters are forced to register domains which don't include your trademark in the domain name. .
The most common distinction is between "pure" gripe sites and "gripe-plus" sites. Pure gripe sites are generally understood to present no evidence of bad faith beyond the fact that they are highly critical of the target. Gripe-plus, on the other hand, do indeed present evidence of bad faith, either intrinsically (e.g. offering competing goods and services) or extrinsically (e.g. offering to sell the domain name to the trademark owner at a profit). While both may constitute bad faith so as to allow transfer of the domain name, pure gripe sites are more difficult to handle, especially due to the First Amendment protection of free speech.
Given the complexity of this particular area within the UDRP, it can not be overstated that the ability to hone in on particular facts to distinguish a non-legitimate use from a legitimate use of the trademark can make all the difference. For example, most decisions turn on whether customers are construed as to source or origin and whether the gripe site is somehow commercial in nature. Do not wish that you had retained experienced domain name and cyber-squatting lawyers to recognize these nuances.
You can contact us today to discuss the likelihood of shutting down down a gripe site using your trademarks, or to discuss the risks associated with maintaining a gripe site using some else's trademark in the URL.