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NatWest sets lawyers on student site

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A student finance website which offers summaries of bank accounts available for the feckless unwashed masses has been hit with a copyright infringement claim by NatWest.

The bank's hungry lawyers claim this page which summarises NatWest's student offer is infringement of its copyright.

The letter claims that 118student.co.uk is trying to deceive people into believing it is part of the nationalised bank, despite the page being headed with a large 118student.co.uk logo.

The letter said Peter Hale, the site's owner, had no permission to use NatWest trademarks - although the letter actually says "Natwest" without the middle capital letter.

It said:

we assume that the Natwest is included on your website to deceive customers into believing they are dealing with Natwest when in fact they are not. Your use of Natwest in the manner noted above is an infringement of our copyright and trademark rights. Further, we consider that your use of Natwest takes unfair advantage of our marks and may cause harm to the repute or character of our marks. Your use of Natwest in this manner amounts to a misrepresentation that there is a connection between you and Natwest and is a deliberate attempt to appropriate our goodwill and/or reputation.

The lawyers said Hale had one week to remove all references to NatWest from his site.

Hale told The Register that he could hardly review NatWest's student account without using the word NatWest. He has run the site since 2004 and covers all the major banks and has never received a similar demand.

Blanket trademark or DMCA claims are increasingly used by big business to silence critics, or even non-critics, because the letters often resemble automatically created spam mails.

For a business not versed in arcane publishing law the usual and easiest thing to do is to simply remove the page rather than get involved in expensive legal battles. If the business does not remove the content then corporate lawyers go after nervous hosting providers and scare them into taking pages down.

We're still waiting to hear back from NatWest. ®

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