In the first gripe site case decided under the CIRA Dispute Resolution Policy (CDRP), a Panel has ordered the transfer of the domain name mckeehomes.ca from the Registrant to the Complainant McKee Homes. The CDRP addresses instances of bad faith registration in the dot-ca space.
The Complainant was a residential construction company and built a home for the Registrant and her fiancé. After allegedly experiencing numerous problems with her new home, and dissatisfied with her experience with the Complainant, the Registrant registered the domain name mckeehomes.ca with the intention of pointing it to a gripe or protest Web site that would provide consumers with a forum to share their experiences with McKee Homes.
As stated by the Panel, the Registrant's Web site "is intended to be a non-commercial gripe or protest website dedicated to legitimate critical commentary. This case pits the brand owner's rights against the individual's right to legitimate expression."
The Panel held that the Complainant's rights in the MCKEE HOMES trade mark predated the registration date of the domain name, and that the mckeehomes.ca domain name was confusingly similar to the MCKEE HOMES trade mark. The Panel further held that, although the Registrant's Web site was intended to be a non-commercial gripe or protest Web site dedicated to legitimate critical commentary, this did not legitimize the Registrant's adoption of a domain name that was identical to the Complainant's trade mark. In this regard, the Panel stated:
A right to freedom of expression does not confer upon a registrant the right to register a domain name that is identical to a third party trade-mark or trade name, or that, on its face, suggests an affiliation with, or endorsement by, a trade-mark or trade name owner. Such a domain name is likely to confuse or mislead the public into believing that the parties are somehow connected, when in fact, they are not.
The Panel held that the Registrant could achieve her objective of criticism by adopting a domain name that was not identical to the Complainant's mark.
This decision is noteworthy as it provides an analysis that serves to balance the rights of trade mark owners vis-à-vis the rights of Registrants to free speech.