Your Company Sucks!

Published date05 April 2022
Law FirmLCF Law
AuthorMr James Sarjantson

"Gripe" or "Suck" sites are websites created for the purposes of complaining about and/or criticising a business. In order to attract the attention they seek, gripe sites often register a domain name that incorporates the target business's trade mark in some way. For example, in Leonard Cheshire Foundation v Drake a disgruntled former Leonard Cheshire employee registered the domain name www.leonard-cheshire.com (whereas the "genuine" website for the Leonard Cheshire Foundation was to be found at www.leonardcheshire.org) and proceeded to use it as a gripe site.

Invariably the similarity between domain names coupled with the presence of the target's trade mark or branding on the gripe site, can lead to a business's customers, or potential customers, accessing a gripe site (where they will usually be greeted by inflammatory, and often defamatory, material about the business) instead of the target's own website. This can inevitably cause real damage to the target business.

The rise of gripe sites

Gripe sites are a common method for individuals to put pressure on businesses quickly, cheaply and effectively. A gripe site which attracted a fair amount of media attention was that relating to the domain name www.walmart50.com. In July 2011, Wal-Mart registered that domain name in celebration of its 50 years in business. A third party proceeded to register three very similar domain names: walmartat50.com, walmartat50.net and walmartat50.org. All three domain names redirected to the same website which included unfounded allegations about Wal-Mart's employment practises. Wal-Mart subsequently applied for transfer and cancellation of the domain names using the Uniform Dispute Resolution Process (see below for further information).

What can you do about a gripe site?

There are two key options available to businesses that are being targeted by a gripe site:

1. Commence legal proceedings - Claims that may be available in these circumstances include passing off, trade mark infringement and/or defamation.

  • Passing off - A successful passing off action requires the claimant to show (i) that its business has generated customer goodwill, which is being misappropriated by the defendant's use of its branding; (ii) the defendant's use of the claimant's branding misrepresents to the public an association with the claimant, which does not in fact exist; and (iii) damage to the claimant, by reason of the defendant's misrepresentation. Demonstrating misrepresentation when the site is...

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