1. Parties and Contested Domain Name
This case, filed by the Dorset Police against Mr. Gerry Coulter, concerns the domain names DORSETPOLICE.COM and DORSETPOLICE.NET (the "Domain Names").
2. Procedural History
The electronic version of the Complaint form was filed on-line through eResolution's Website on July 19, 2001. The hardcopy of the Complaint Form and annexes were received on July 23, 2001. Payment was received on July 19, 2001.
Upon receiving all the required information, eResolution's clerk proceeded to:
- Confirm the identity of the Registrar for the contested Domain Name;
- Verify the Registrar's Whois Database and confirm all the essential contact information for Respondent;
- Verify if the contested Domain Name resolved to an active Web page;
- Verify if the Complaint was administratively compliant.
This inquiry lead the Clerk of eResolution to the following conclusions: the Registrar is CORE, the Whois database contains all the required contact information, the contested Domain Name resolves to an active Web page and the Complaint is administratively compliant.
An email was sent to the Registrar by eResolution Clerk's Office to obtain confirmation and a copy of the Registration Agreement on July 19, 2001. The requested information was received July 25, 2001.
The Clerk then proceeded to send a copy of the Complaint Form and the required Cover Sheet in accordance with paragraph 2 (a) of the ICANN's Rules for Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy. The Clerk's Office fulfilled all its responsibilities under Paragraph 2(a) in forwarding the Complaint to the Respondent, notifying the Complainant, the concerned Registrar and ICANN on July 25, 2001. This date is the official commencement date of the administrative proceeding.
All the emails and the faxes were successful.
The complaint, official notification and all the annexes were sent via registered mail with proof of service, to the respondent. According to the Canada Post tracking system, all were delivered.
By way of compromise, the Complainant accepted to grant a delay to the Respondent until the end of August.
On August 30, 2001, the Respondent submitted, via eResolution Internet site, his response. The signed version of the response was received on September 04, 2001.
On September 04, 2001, the Clerk's Office contacted Mike Rodenbaugh and requested that he acts as panelist in this case.
On September 04, 2001, Mike Rodenbaugh accepted to act as panelist in this case and filed the necessary Declaration of Independence and Impartiality.
On September 05, 2001, the parties were notified that Mike Rodenbaugh had been appointed and that a decision was to be handed down on September 19, 2001.
On September 12, 2001, Complainant requested to file an additional submission and Respondent opposed this request.
On September 13, 2001, the Panelist decided to accept the additional submission by September 17, and to allow Respondent to reply thereto by October 2, 2001.
On September 17, 2001, the additional submission of Complainant was received.
On October 2, 2001, the reply of Respondent was received.
3. Factual Background
Complainant is the Dorset Police, the official police force of Dorset County, U.K. - see www.dorset.police.uk. Respondent uses the Domain Names to direct to an active website which discusses a grievance between Respondent and Complainant. The grievance involved Mr. Coulter's allegations that the Dorset Police failed to recover his stolen car, and further allegations of corruption in the police force. Respondent uses the Domain Names to briefly explain a grievance that he has with the Complainant, which will be further explained at a later date. The site also contains a link to a recent article critical of the Complainant regarding another matter. Moreover, the Domain Names, until very recently, automatically redirected traffic (after a brief wait) to a third party website at www.vomit.cc which contains further discussion of Respondent's grievance, but appears primarily devoted to vitriolic commentary concerning freemasons and various government entities and employees including the Complainant.
4. Parties' Contentions
Complainant alleges that it has common law trademark rights in the words DORSET POLICE, and that Respondent registered and uses the identical Domain Names without any rights or legitimate interests in them, and in bad faith.
5. Discussion and Findings
Complainant has the burden to prove that Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in the Domain Names, and that they have been registered and are being used in bad faith. Complainant has failed to meet this burden on either point.
A. Legitimate Interest
Respondent cites two decisions for the proposition that he has a legitimate interest in the Domain Names because he uses them to criticize Complainant. Britannia Builiding Society v. Britannia Fraud Prevention, WIPO Case D2001-0505 (July 6, 2001); Bridgestone Firestone, Inc. v. Jack Myers, WIPO Case D2000-0190 (July 6, 2000). Complainant cites no contrary authority and does not attack the reasoning of these decisions. Instead, Complainant argues that Respondent's criticism is offensive to a point beyond libellous, and is "directed towards making an allegation that Dorset Police comprise Jews or freemasons and then seeking to criticise the organisation on that basis." The Panel disagrees with this characterization. The web site Respondent operates at the Domain Names is, and as far as the Panel can tell from the record always has been, maintained as a genuine criticism site. Even if it has been "under construction" and evolving, or redirected to other criticism sites and articles, it has continuously been used to criticize the Dorset Police.
Complainant is a governmental entity. The Panel finds that there is a general, legitimate interest in allowing citizens to use descriptive domain names to publish criticism about their government. The Panel finds that the reasoning of the aforementioned decisions is even more poignant in this case involving a governmental entity. There has been no evidence that the Domain Names have been used for any commercial purpose. Therefore, the Panel finds that Respondent does have a legitimate interest in the Domain Names.
B. Bad Faith
Complainant further avers that Respondent offered 100,000 British pounds to transfer the Domain Names. There is much dispute as to the purpose of this offer. The relevant portion of the written offer states, "I explained that since the corruption had already cost me 100,000 pounds in legal fees and the loss of my Jeep, I would sell [Complainant] the names for 100,000 pounds and walk away." It is undisputed that the grievances between the parties have a lengthy history, involving substantial costs on both sides. In this context, the Panel finds that the offer was made to settle all of Respondent's grievances with the Complainant, and not just this domain name dispute.
There is no other purported evidence of bad faith put forth by Complainant. Therefore, the Panel finds that the Domain Names were not registered and are not being used in bad faith.
The Complaint is denied, the Domain Names shall remain with Respondent.
(s) Mike Rodenbaugh
San Francisco, California
October 20, 2001