Sucks.com operator scores rare victory

Trademark owners usually win disputes over "sucks" sites, but a recent case shows that the trend could be shifting in favor of site owners.

2 min read
A message board operator and pornographer who's registered hundreds of domain names has won the rights to keep Michaelbloombergsucks.com, bucking a trend that usually favors trademark holders in disputes involving the word "sucks."

A dispute resolution panel has refused to turn the domain name over to financial news service Bloomberg, meaning Dan Parisi, who also runs the porn site Whitehouse.com, will continue as owner.

Parisi owns about 700 domain names containing the word "sucks," including Microsoftsucks.com and Chinasucks.com. Typing in those Web addresses redirects surfers to the Sucks.com message board, where they can complain about a variety of organizations and people, including corporations, governments and CEOs, such as Michael Dell.

Although only a handful of companies have tried to usurp ownership of "sucks" sites, dispute resolution boards have sided with trademark holders in nearly all of those cases.

For example, Guinness has won disputes over at least 11 domains with the word "sucks," including Guinness-really-really-sucks.com and Guinessbeerreallyreallysucks.com.

Other companies that have won the right to shut down Web sites containing the word "sucks" include retailers Wal-Mart Stores and Dixons Group. Many of the panels found that people registered the "sucks" sites in bad faith, intending only to sell them back to the trademark holder to make a profit.

However, in this case, the board ruled that Parisi wanted to send people to a site where they could give opinions about different companies and issues.

"The respondent registered the domain name with the intention to link it to a free-speech site," the ruling said.

Parisi said he hoped the ruling would inspire other owners of such sites to stand their ground in the face of trademark holders.

"At least there's a (precedent) that you just can't take sucks sites away," he said.

Bloomberg did not immediately return phone calls requesting comment. The company has won at least two dozen cases seeking the transfer of domain names containing some version of the word Bloomberg. However, it has withdrawn a claim on the domain name Bloombergsucks.com. Companies that lose dispute resolution hearings can file suit in federal court to get the domain name.

Parisi has been involved in several disputes over his domain names. In the most high-profile case so far, pop singer Madonna has filed a claim, seeking rights to his Madonna.com site. The case is tied up in court in New York. Parisi operated Madonna.com as a porn site before donating it to a hospital.

Parisi won a case earlier this year against aerospace company Lockheed-Martin, which tried to shut down the Lockheedsucks.com and Lockheedmartinsucks.com domain names.