An Arizona cash-for-gold company has successful recovered a “sucks” domain name via UDRP, after it emerged that the anonymous gripe site was actually run by a competitor.
Up until about a month ago, the registrant’s identity was protected by Go Daddy’s privacy service.
But Valley Goldmine used a subpoena to identify the actual registrant, and it turned out to be the operator of Gold Stash For Cash, a direct competitor, which does business at goldstash.com.
The site was created after a local TV news report had ranked Valley Goldmine higher than GSFC in an “investigation” into cash-for-gold companies. The blog posts, ironically, attacked the report’s objectivity.
Despite precedent largely protecting “sucks” domains on free speech grounds, this was enough for WIPO panelist Maxim Waldbaum to find against the registrant on all three requirements of the UDRP.
Interestingly, Waldbaum used the fact that the domain satisfied the “bad faith” part of the UDRP to justify the “confusingly similar” criterion.
The associated website has high placement on search engine results for the Mark and is operated by the principal of a direct competitor of Complainant. Respondent’s use of the Disputed Domain Name in this context is precisely within the list of bad faith criteria under paragraph 4(b) of the Policy, which, in this Panel’s view, clearly indicates Respondent’s intent to create confusing similarity in the minds of Internet users.
The fact that GSFC stood to benefit financially from anonymously bad-mouthing its competitor clearly over-rode any free speech concerns, which does not seem unreasonable.
The panelist concluded:
Although cloaked in the mantle of a gripe site, Respondent’s website is quite clearly a platform for Respondent to cast aspersions on the reliability of a report that portrayed his company in a negative light and his competitor in a positive light, and to otherwise sling mud.
Amusingly, while GSFC appears to own goldstashforcashsucks.com, a third party owns goldstashsucks.com.