Former Laurel licensee loses case over website

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by Ewan Turney Pub company Laurel has won a dispute with a disaffected ex-employee over a website domain that pinched its Hog's Head pub chain name....

by Ewan Turney Pub company Laurel has won a dispute with a disaffected ex-employee over a website domain that pinched its Hog's Head pub chain name. Peter Robertson was manager of the Robin Hood pub in Dagenham between January and October 2003, which "had a history of Nazi activity, a drugs problem and was a meeting place for soccer hooligans". Robertson agreed to take on the pub provided he could use the internet to promote activities at the pub to encourage new customers. He was allowed to do so via, which he paid for and hosted himself. However, Robertson was sacked in October 2003 and evicted in February 2004 following an employment tribunal. He was not sacked for reasons relating to his website. In February, Robertson registered the name, which he described as "a new innovation for service and staff relations in the licenced trade". The aim of the new site was to "encourage high standards in the pub retailing industry" that would point out both good and bad practices. Laurel contacted Robertson to inquire about his interest in the domain name. Robertson claimed he had no knowledge of Laurel's trademark. He claimed he had chosen the name because he was "a larger than life person" and also that it had originally been registered as a site to host pictures of not so beautiful women. At this stage, Laurel offered to settle Robertson's out of pocket expenses if he transferred the name to them. He refused. A few days later, Robertson sent an e-mail to Laurel senior management relating to the site. It read: " will look at contentious issues such as training and the relevance to the licenced trade. "Some companies see training as an excuse to abuse staff and gain free labour, with no academic accreditation at the end of it. We will condemn such practices and highlight companies that use dodgy practices." He signed off as Robin of Loxley. Laurel referred the matter to the World Intellectual Property Rights Organisation (WIPO) for a ruling after Robertson redirected the site to where he hosted a message board for unhappy staff. WIPO ruled in favour of Laurel. WIPO panellist said Robertson "could have chosen a domain name that would not have been likely to disrupt and divert [Laurel's] business". A Laurel spokeswoman said: "It was always our intention to settle amicably, but when this was not possible we had to take action to protect our trademark and brand name." Robertson has launched an appeal against the decision.

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