August 14, 2005

The use of a company name for a news website can be legal

Here is an interesting decision: For years, Alfred Donovan has published news and reports on the firm Shell.
He has a website, which domain names are, and
In the case brought by Shell Petroleum, the Panel, as it put it, had
to "balance the Respondent’s “fair use” right to express opinions and provide information about the Complainant against the possible confusion of Internet users who reach the Respondent’s website (via any of his domain names) thinking they are accessing a site operated by or on behalf of the Complainant, an impression then dispelled by the disclaimer visible at the top of the first page of the site, which includes a link to the Complainant’s site."
Concluding a thorough review of the facts, the Panel unanimously finds: "The use of a domain name to criticize a company is prima facie fair use. The Respondent is entitled to use the Internet to use his free speech rights and express his opinion in this way, subject to other laws of course (copyright, libel, etc.). However, by reflecting the exact trade names of the Complainant and using the exact name of a facility specifically designed to send messages to or post messages about the Complainant, the Complainant argues that Respondent’s intent is to tarnish the mark. The distinction between constructive criticism and tarnishment can be a difficult one to draw. In this case, there is no evidence that Respondent’s actions are for “commercial gain” or that they are intended to tarnish the Complainant’s mark as required by paragraph 4(c)(iii) of the Policy. The Respondent does own some shares of stock, but the impact of his activities on the value of such shares is presumed by the Panel to be remote. The Panel thus finds that the Respondent has a legitimate interest in the domain names."

No comments: