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Ryanair wins ihateryanair.co.uk because of £322 ad revenue

Critic must surrender domain name over trademark issues

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A website criticising airline Ryanair must surrender its domain name to the Irish carrier because it broke the policies governing the use of others' trademarks in .co.uk addresses by earning money from commercial links on the site.

An appointed expert for Nominet, which is responsible for .uk domain names, has ruled that ihateryanair.co.uk must be handed over to the airline because it took unfair advantage of the company's trademark-protected name.

The site has moved to a new address, ihateryanair.org.

The Nominet expert said that the name handover was not down to the caustic criticism hosted at the site and that the .uk domain must be capable of hosting sites criticising companies and that such sites "are essential in a democratic society".

But by accepting money from advertisers in some of the same businesses as Ryanair and its affiliates while operating under a domain name containing Ryanair's trademarked name, site owner Robert Tyler broke Nominet policy on registrations, the expert said.

"This case quite literally turned on [Tyler's] receipt of £322 and whether or not it was unfair," said expert Jane Seager wrote in the Nominet ruling. "It would appear from the surrounding facts and evidence supplied that when the traffic to his website increased [Tyler] simply realised that he could not only criticise [Ryanair] but also make some money off the back of such activity."

"However in the expert's opinion, given the fact that the use of [Ryanair's] trademark in the Domain Name was undoubtedly responsible for the level of traffic to the website ... any subsequent advantage for [Tyler] (or indeed detriment to [Ryanair]) as a result of the commercial links took [Tyler] outside the terms of what is permitted under the Policy. [Tyler] must now forfeit his Domain Name as a result," said Seager.

Domain name registrations which take unfair advantage of a person or company's rights, such as a trademarked term, are not allowed under the Nominet policy.

Ryanair argued that the content of the site as well as the commercial links it contained made it abusive.

"The editorial content of the website contains 'vitriolic and highly disparaging' comments about [Ryanair]," said the ruling's summary of the company's arguments. "In [Ryanair's] opinion the material published on the website goes significantly beyond fair comment and is unlawful and damaging to [it]. [Ryanair] argues that it is an abuse of [its] Rights in its trade mark to use 'Ryanair' as part of the Domain Name to attract visitors to the website to promulgate such material."

Tyler argued that Ryanair did not possess much goodwill to be exhausted by sites like his. Though it had some, it "has also built up a substantial and growing amount of dissatisfaction with the services it provides", said his submission.

"[Tyler] submits that [Ryanair] is using Nominet's Dispute Resolution Service in order to try and censor critical content about the services it offers," said the ruling, outlining Tyler's view. "[Tyler] should be free to use the trade mark within the Domain Name and within content on the website as long as such use does not involve an act of registered trade mark infringement and/or an act of passing off."

Tyler earned £322 from affiliate links to services including travel insurance that appeared on the site. He said that this should not be the cause of his loss of the domain name.

"The existence of affiliate links for a short period of time on the website did not change the purpose of the website," said the ruling's summary of his view. "[Tyler] states that, in order to prove that the affiliate links were an irrelevant aspect of the website, they were withdrawn from the website on 11 May 2010. [He] points out that he has no intention of re-instating such affiliate links and states that he has offered [Ryanair] a binding undertaking in this respect."

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