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(Former) Donuts director hit with cybersquatting claim over Disney and Olympic domains

Kevin Murphy, August 7, 2012, 10:28:07 (UTC), Domain Policy

Donuts, the massive new gTLD applicant, has been hit by another set of cybersquatting claims, this time aimed at one of the company’s original directors.

Graham Stirling, who is listed as a Donuts Inc director in the company’s only Securities and Exchange Commission filing, seems to own several domain names containing Disney and Olympics trademarks.

(UPDATE: Donuts has confirmed that Stirling is no longer with the company, and hasn’t been since November 2011. Read the company’s full statement at the bottom of this post.)

The information emerged in a comment filed with ICANN on several Donuts applications by somebody called James Oliver Warner.

These are some of the domains Gibraltar-based Stirling allegedly owns:

2016juegosolimpicos.com
2016olimpicos.com
2020juegosolimpicos.com
2020olimpicos.com
2024olimpicos.com
andaluciadisney.com
costadelsoldisney.com
disneyandalucia.com
disneylandmalaga.com
disneymalaga.com
disneyworldmalaga.com
juegosolimpicos2008.com
juegosolimpicos2016.com
juegosolimpicos2020.com
juegosolimpicos2024.com
juegosolimpicoslondres.com
londresjuegosolimpicos.com
malagadisney.com
malagadisneyland.com
malagadisneyworld.com
olimpicos2016.com
olimpicos2020.com
olimpicos2024.com
soldisney.com
spaindisneyland.com
spaindisneyworld.com
teleubbies.com

You don’t need to be a trademark lawyer to know that these domains would not pass a UDRP challenge.

The domains all seem to have been registered to a Graham Stirling of Gibraltar for some years. Gibraltar’s a pretty small place, suggesting that it’s very probably the same guy.

It’s the second serious cybersquatting claim to hit Donuts in the last couple of weeks.

As we reported last week, a lawyer who apparently doesn’t want his client’s identity to be known has written to ICANN’s Governmental Advisory Committee to warn that Demand Media, Donuts’ back-end partner and its founders’ former employer, has a history of adverse UDRP findings.

That letter fingered Stirling as an employee of Gibraltar-based investment company Veddis Ventures, whose other executives allegedly have ties to online gambling scandals in the US.

Veddis Ventures recently removed Stirling’s full name from its web site. He’s now just listed as “Graham S”, adding to the intrigue.

The latest set of cybersquatting allegations are directed to ICANN’s background screening panel, which is tasked with weeding likely ne’er-do-wells out of the new gTLD program.

The panel looks at not only the corporate history of the applicant, but also at its directors and officers.

Stirling is not named on any of Donuts applications. For that matter, Donuts itself is not named as an official applicant on any of its 307 applications either.

Each of its applications has been filed by a different shell company, most of which are owned by another company, Dozen Donuts LLC, which we assume (but do not know) is in turn owned by Donuts.

The only individual named in the background check part of the applications (at least the portions published by ICANN) is Donuts CEO Paul Stahura.

Stirling is not currently listed as a director on Donuts’ web site.

If Stirling is still involved with Donuts, it might not impact the results of Donuts background screening, if the panel only looks at UDRP or court cases for evidence of cybersquatting.

Stirling does not appear to have ever been named in, never mind lost, a UDRP complaint.

That said, I don’t think ICANN’s background screening process will be over for a while yet…

August 7 Update:

Donuts has provided the following statement:

Graham Stirling is not a member of the Donuts Board of Directors and has not been since November 2011. Our list of board members as documented on our web site at www.donuts.co is current.

It’s disappointing to see Donuts’ contributions to new gTLD expansion attacked by those (including some unwilling to disclose their identities) who attempt to portray the company or those associated with it as bad actors. The company is and will continue to be committed to the legitimate interests of rights holders. As described in our applications, Donuts will implement rights protection mechanisms in its new gTLDs that substantially exceed those mandated by ICANN.

We have engaged the intellectual property community, law enforcement and others in the community about IP protection and believe our intentions and actions are clear and well understood. Infringement of legitimate rights is not tolerated by Donuts, in any capacity. Our collaboration with the community on IP protections will be an ongoing priority as the new gTLD program continues.

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Comments (20)

  1. adrian keys says:

    Not good at all. ICANN will likely be a much bigger organisation soon…I wonder if that was the plan.

  2. V. Columbo says:

    Also note:

    Domain Venture Partners, PCC (applying for over 50 TLDs) is based in Gibraltar as well, and has no website. (they list as their email enquiries@grantthornton.gi — the accounting firm).

    Grant Thornton, Gibraltar is HEAVILY involved in the online gaming market.

    See: http://www.grantthornton.gi/Partners/marcus-hayday.html

    This SAME accountant, specialized in the online gaming market has the address:

    Marcus Hayday
    6A Queensway
    P.O. Box 64

    THIS IS THE SAME ADDRESS AS DOMAIN VENTURE PARTNERS.

    Name, Domain Venture Partners PCC Limited. Address, 6A Queensway Gibraltar

    The conclusion is clear: both Donuts and Domain Venture Partners have deep ties to the online gaming industry. These firms should be banned from owning ANY TLDs.

    ICANN Needs to make a statement that they will investigate this NOW

  3. V. Columbo says:

    Regarding Grant Stirling, a little detective work can prove that he is behind Casino On Net, one of the world’s largest online gambling sites.

    To prove it, take a look at the domains registered above, specifically malagadisney.com

    The registrant is

    Stirling, Graham adelanan@hotmail.com
    PO Box 458
    Gibraltar, 12345
    Gibraltar
    0034636401268

    Now, searching for PO Box 458 Gibraltar, on page 2 of the google results, you can see that casinoonnet.info is also registered to Graham Stirling with the same telephone number

    Admin Country:GI
    Admin Phone:+350.3463640128

    Casino On Net’s main website, casinoonnet.com is, naturally registered in gibraltar as well

    Cassava Enterprises (Gibraltar) Ltd
    Europort 601-701
    Gibraltar, Gibraltar 99999
    GI

    I’m fairly sure this is not a coincidence.

    Note that the casino on net whois ties Stirling to “Activa Domains”. A search for “activa-domains” shows that there is a WIPO UDRP case against them

    WIPO D2009-0496 “ChevronMastercard.com”

    • Kevin Murphy says:

      What makes you think casinoonnet.info and casinoonnet.com belong to the same entity? If you’re going to squat Disney…

      • Vector Columbo says:

        Seems unlikely. Casino On Net is located in Gibraltar as well — and with a population of just 20,000 I’m pretty sure if he was just cybersquatting they would have just called him up and told him to release the name.

        The fact that Stirling is (or was) a director of Donuts, on par with Austin Ventures, and is listed on the Veddis website indicates to me that this man is at least reasonably well connected and influential — exactly the kind of profile you would expect from a big time gaming operator. Of course, he clearly can’t help himself when it comes to typo squatting, and isn’t even very careful about it.

    • xaero says:

      I used to have a gambling problem. Asked to close my casinoonnet.com account. They offered me a free $200 to keep playing. Not out of kindness one would imagine.

  4. Kristina says:

    “If Stirling is still involved with Donuts, it might not impact the results of Donuts background screening, if the panel only looks at UDRP or court cases for evidence of cybersquatting.”

    Would be easy enough to file the UDRPs today (with these names, it’s pretty much a slam dunk) and get decisions before Initial Evaluation is over. Separate complaint for each name would do it. Just sayin’

    • Kevin Murphy says:

      That is what I was hinting at in my final sentence of course.

      The issue might be that the Guidebook says the adverse decisions have to be “final”, so I’m guessing it would be relatively easy to appeal the UDRP loss in the courts and tie it up in time-wasting litigation until the problem went away. No?

      • Kristina says:

        Not necessarily. Depends on how good the brand owner lawyer is – and the typosquatted brands have really good ones.

        • Zack says:

          I doubt they let cases of cybersquatting come up now. I imagine they would have to had been final prior to submitting an application. If not then wouldn’t there be a possibility of gaming once you figure out who has applied for what?

          Also, I wonder if this is a non-issue since Stirling was not named in any UDRP cases?

  5. V. Columbo says:

    Another one owned by Stirling is GuiatrCenter.com (a typo of Guitar Center). This is owned via his “Activa-Domains” alias.

    You can verify that the telephone number 34636401268 is the same.

  6. Tom G says:

    What does online gaming have to do with any of this? Online gambling is legal in many countries, and soon will be in the U.S. as well.

    Irrelevant imo.

  7. Adam says:

    Now I see why Donuts.co was nominated for the “we get it award” at TRAFFIC

  8. Rubens Kuhl says:

    Besides brand associations that might see as “the less new gTLDs the better”, besides competitors that might prefer not having a mammoth one like Donuts, I wonder if someone did the delegation rate math and the contest auction math
    and noticed that not having an applicant with that much TLDs, both contested and exclusive ones, benefits a lot of applicants.

    I guess ICANN won’t shut Donuts down, but not doing it might be a compelling reason for some to sue.

  9. anna says:

    enom was one of the largest domain tasters on the web. Up to 90,000 domains tasted per day

    http://www.dotweekly.com/enom-is-tasting-domains-big-time-80000-in-one-day/

  10. blehblehbleh says:

    In the words of Phil Collins,

    “There must be some misunderstanding…”

    /sarcasm

  11. LM says:

    Typing Sterling’s address from the SEC filing [57/63 Line Wall Road] into google returns a link to a law firm called Hassans.

    A bit of further searching turns up this little nugget linking Hassans to Madoff:

    http://media.ft.com/cms/3b8d106a-04b8-11e0-a99c-00144feabdc0.pdf

  12. Hi Kevin:

    Curious … “ICANN’s background screening panel, which is tasked with weeding likely ne’er-do-wells out of the new gTLD program. The panel looks at not only the corporate history of the applicant, but also at its directors and officers.”

    ICANN has such a panel ??

    Does this panel have a specific acronym based , or WG-fluxing name that I can google?

    Thanks, Graham.

    • Kevin Murphy says:

      Section 1.2.1 of the Applicant Guidebook talks about screening. Off the top of my head, I can’t recall who the selected screening vendor was, or whether ICANN even announced that info.

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