Feeds

Air France wins 'sucks' domain name

Not a gripe site

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

New hybrid storage solutions

The domain name AirFranceSucks.com will be transferred to Air France. But the airline's victory at arbitration was not without controversy: panellists disagreed about what the word 'sucks' really means to internet users.

The name was registered by Florida-based Virtual Dates Inc. in 1999. It was only in February 2005 that Air France took a claim before the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO), alleging cybersquatting. The decision was made on 24th May and published today.

For most of the past six years, Virtual Dates pointed the domain name at a page of ePinions.com, an ad-supported site that rates and invites reader comments on everything from movies and barbecues to office supplies and zoos.

Virtual Dates said AirFranceSucks.com was a freedom of expression site for the registration of complaints or recommendations about the airline. Air France said it was just trying to cash-in on its trade mark: this was a commercial entity, not the gripe site of an aggrieved customer.

Two of the three WIPO panellists reckoned that a domain name that adds 'sucks' to a trade mark will generally be confusingly similar to that trade mark. Presiding panellist Knud Wallberg wrote:

“The incorporation of a well known trade mark in its entirety as the first and dominant part of a domain name is confusingly similar to this trade mark regardless of whether the additional elements are pejorative as in this case or of a more neutral kind such as airfrancetickets”.

Co-panellist Christian-André Le Stanc agreed: international customers might not appreciate the pejorative nature of the term 'sucks', which would leave users confused.

The third panellist, Jeffrey M Samuels, disagreed.

Samuels, an intellectual property professor at Akron University, Ohio, accepted that not all internet users will be familiar with the pejorative nature of the term 'sucks.' But he added: "it is likely that a substantial percentage of potential customers of Air France are familiar with the English language and, thus, would be aware of the pejorative nature of 'sucks.'"

A confusingly similar trade mark is not enough of itself to force a transfer: it must also be shown that the registrant has no rights or legitimate interest in the name and that its registration and use were in bad faith.

But if a panel is convinced that a domain name is not confusingly similar to a trade mark, the rest of a cybersquatting claim will collapse.

In Samuels' opinion, the domain name was not confusingly similar to Air France’s trade mark, because it did not look or sound alike nor convey the same commercial impression.

Decisions on 'sucks' sites have gone both ways trade mark owners in the past. But the current panel's majority view on their similarity to a trade mark is supported by a WIPO report on trends in domain name dispute decisions, published in March. On 'sucks' sites, it agreed that non-fluent English speakers would fail to recognise the negative connotations of the word.

Copyright © 2005, OUT-LAW.com

See: The WIPO ruling

Related stories

Cohen disputes UK registry's legitimacy
US Appeals Court clarifies protest website law
WIPO publishes case book of domain name decisions
BAA accused in net 'dirty tricks' campaign
Sucks.com issue rears ugly head again

New hybrid storage solutions

More from The Register

next story
Phones 4u slips into administration after EE cuts ties with Brit mobe retailer
More than 5,500 jobs could be axed if rescue mission fails
Apple Pay is a tidy payday for Apple with 0.15% cut, sources say
Cupertino slurps 15 cents from every $100 purchase
Phones 4u website DIES as wounded mobe retailer struggles to stay above water
Founder blames 'ruthless network partners' for implosion
Forget silly privacy worries - help biometrics firms make MILLIONS
Beancounter reckons dabs-scanning tech is the next big moneypit
Microsoft's Office Delve wants work to be more like being on Facebook
Office Graph, social features for Office 365 going public
Alibaba swings a large one with STONKING IPO legal bills
Chinese e-commerce beast searches for $21bn from investors
Huawei ditches new Windows Phone mobe plans, blames poor sales
Giganto mobe firm slams door shut on Microsoft. OH DEAR
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile
Data demand and the rise of virtualization is challenging IT teams to deliver storage performance, scalability and capacity that can keep up, while maximizing efficiency.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.