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Woman ordered to remove protest site

June Knight

June Knight

A WEB watchdog has ordered a disgruntled tenant, who set up a protest website to air her ‘acrimonious’ dispute with a lettings agent, to give up the offending online address.

June Knight, of St Helens Road, said she registered the ‘oakfieldproperty.org.uk’ domain for ‘the greater good’ after a bitter row with East Sussex letting agency, Oakfield P.M. Ltd.

The Hastings-based firm complained that the domain name was very similar to its own, ‘oakfield-property.co.uk’, and was ‘set up specifically to damage its business’ by branding the firm and its landlord client as ‘rogues’.

Online dispute resolution service, Nominet, has now ruled that Ms Knight registered the web address to ‘unfairly disrupt’ the property company and ordered her to hand it over.

Nominet expert, Tim Brown, said there was a ‘lengthy, acrimonious and emotive dispute’ between Ms Knight and Oakfield, which managed a property she had lived in since 2007.

Ms Knight registered the contentious domain in March this year, later linking it to a site which ‘targeted’ Oakfield with scathing criticism, the expert added.

Oakfield complained that the domain name was ‘very similar’ to its own and that the website contained information that was ‘false and caused damage to its principal officers’, Mr Brown said.

“The company says the website was set up specifically to damage its business by attempting to persuade third parties not to use it and to portray both Oakfield and its landlord client as ‘rogues’,” he said.

However, Ms Knight said she acquired the domain ‘legally and fairly’ and that the property firm had no right to the ‘oakfield’ term as it had not registered it as a trademark.

“She says that the website associated with the domain is a legitimate criticism site and its use as a protest site is a fair use for the greater good,” Mr Brown added.

Ms Knight said her site, which has since been removed from the web, was a ‘not-for-profit social campaigning site’ and contended that the terms ‘oak’, ‘field’ and ‘property’ were generic and could not be protected.

While declining to consider the merits of the background dispute, the Nominet expert ruled that Oakfield ‘has rights in respect of a name which is similar to the domain’ as the three terms, when joined together, were not generic.

He added: “I take the view that the domain was registered for the purpose of unfairly disrupting the business of Oakfield and is therefore abusive.”

Mr Brown ordered Ms Knight to transfer the web address to Oakfield P.M. He said this did not mean any ‘curtailment of her right to protest’ because she was still able to use a domain that ‘did not impinge’ on Oakfield’s rights.

 

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