Former customer registered ten domain names to air grievances about the bank.
Union Bank has lost three domain name arbitration cases involving an upset former customer.
The bank filed three separate actions covering UnionBank.me, unionbancal.co, unionbank.cc, union-bank.co, mufgunionbankna.com, unionbancalcorp.com, unionbancal.net, unionbancal.org, unionbankna.com and unionbanks.net.
The domain names were all registered by William Bookout. At one point, his company had a Small Business Administration Loan with the bank. His loan went into default and he later filed bankruptcy, according to the decision. He was upset with how the bank handled his loan, so he created a number of gripe sites.
In each case, the World Intellectual Property Organization panel found that the domain names were being used as gripe sites, and that he had rights/legitimate interests in them. They were also not registered in bad faith.
Often times, a panel will not allow a gripe site that creates initial confusion. In this case, the domains don’t include “sucks” or another modifier, so someone who went to the domains might initially assume they are owned by Union Bank.
However, when both the complainant and respondent are in the U.S., WIPO panels typically state that the possibility of initial interest confusion does not automatically negate the Respondent’s rights or legitimate interests in a name. This is due to the U.S.’s strong protection of non-commercial free speech.
David Walker says
I was always under the assumption in order to run a gripe site that one must use a trademark in conjunction to an adjective such as “sucks”. This is due to the multitude of websites running gripe sites with +”Sucks” affixed to it and the ICANN decision based upon that. However, it appears that with the lieu of this news, anyone can open a gripe site, even if it’s similar in spelling, if developed in a non-commercial manner.
This is good news for consumers who want their voices heard and bad for companies. I assume that more companies will be doing defensive registrations in the next few days.
Andrew Allemann says
The key here is if both entities are in the U.S.
Bill Bookout says
Thanks to Freedom of Speech, I have been able to show Union Banks Fraud and Perjury. The websites show all of Union Banks emails and changing of certified loan transaction histories.