The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) has ruled that ASQ State Section Chair William A. Levinson infringed on the trademark rights of Oxebridge by registering and operating the anti-Oxebridge defamation website previously located at www.oxebridge.biz.
WIPO is tasked with resolving domain name disputes when one party registers a website domain address (or “URL”) based on the name of another organization. A WIPO ruling must find that the infringing website owner met three conditions: that the infringing website is “confusingly similar” to the infringed party, that the infringing party had no legitimate rights or interests to use the name, and that it was registered and used in bad faith. WIPO ruled against Levinson on all three counts.
Specifically, WIPO ruled that Levinson had created the site with an “intent to disrupt the business of a competitor,” and that he stood to “conceivably benefit commercially” from the attacks made on the site.
Levinson attempted to fight the case by claiming his website fell under the “Fair Use” clauses of copyright and trademark regulation. Levinson argued that “bitch sites” created to disparage a commercial entity are free speech, but WIPO rejected that claim by pointing out Levinson’s own claims that he is a “competitor” of Oxebridge, saying:
The Panel finds it inconsistent with good faith, within the meaning of the Policy, to use a domain name misleadingly similar to a competitor’s trademark for a website largely devoted to disparaging the competitor’s business.
WIPO also pointed to a potential motive for Levinson’s actions, indicating he stood to gain commercially from the defamation site:
The Respondent [Levinson] was identifiable from the content on the website, and the Respondent appears to be a competitor in the market for certain consulting services, such as those involving the ISO 9001 standard, so the Respondent could conceivably benefit commercially from diverting Internet users to the criticism site and disparaging the Complainant’s services. The Panel also notes that the website referred to third-party alternatives to the Complainant.
Levinson has since shut the site down, and operates a new defamation website at www.osteinfo.net. This contains similar material to that originally posted on the oxebridge.biz website.
Ironically, Levinson is suing Oxebridge for defamation in a Florida court.
Meanwhile, the WIPO ruling provides evidence from an independent world authority that Levinson has violated the ASQ Code of Ethics. That code specifically mandates that members “not use the intellectual property of others without permission.” ASQ has so far refused to enforce its Code of Ethics, raising questions as to whether the organization may run afoul of State and Federal consumer protection laws against using deceptive means to entice the public to join and pay membership dues.
The ruling also adds additional evidence that Levinson has violated the codes of ethics of APICS and the Society of Manufacturing Engineers, organizations to which Levinson also belongs.
The WIPO ruling also deals an incidental blow to the pseudonymous owner of the Elsmar.com website, “John Peachfarm,” who registered a similar defamation site under the URL “oxebridge.co”, intentionally leaving out the final “m.” That site has since been taken down, but the case is being litigated in Federal court, with Oxebridge as the Plaintiff. References to “Peachfarm” have recently been scrubbed from the Elsmar website.
The final WIPO ruling may be read here (PDF – 234kb).