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Yale professor wins domain name case. Was it the right decision?

I came across an interesting WIPO domain dispute today for The case was brought by Joseph Schlessinger, a professor at Yale.

The case initially caught my eye because, even before reading it, it was clearly brought by a person claiming common law rights to his name as a trademark, yet I had not heard of the person. It gets more interesting when you go to the web site, which criticizes the professor for both allegedly stealing research and for sexual harassment.

I can certainly see why Schlessinger wanted this web site taken down, but is UDRP the correct mechanism to do it?

First, I’m perplexed at how panelists decide that a person has achieved significant enough popularity to have trademark rights to their name. The random selection of a panelist seems to be more important than how well known the person actually is.

Second, it’s fairly clear that the web site at the domain is a gripe site. I can’t see anyone being fooled into thinking that Schlessinger posted defamatory information about himself.

Perhaps if the domain name owner had revealed who he (or she) was and why he had a beef with Schlessinger he would have been able to win the case. But isn’t that the point? Shouldn’t people have the ability to anonymously criticize? If any of the statements on the web site are factually incorrect, the courts are the correct venue to challenge the web site.

You can read the decision here. What do you think?


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