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The Easy way to crush dissenting voices
'Friendly' company stamps on Web sites
Updated One group's attempt to protect itself against corporate Internet bullying has failed with the loss of the EasyProtest.com Web site.
The protest site was set up in November and offered to give advice to anyone who owned a domain name starting with "easy". This was to prevent the Easy Group - run by billionaire Stelios Haji-Ioannou - from taking over any and all such sites, claiming that they infringed the company's trademarks.
The Easy Group - which owns and runs EasyJet budget airline, EasyEverything Internet cafes and EasyRentacar budget car rental - embarked on an aggressive reverse domain hijacking policy last year, sending threatening legal letters to any sites beginning with "easy".
Most of the cases brought before WIPO have been spurious - represented in the fact that WIPO has consistently ruled against the organisation, an unusual happening at the corporate-friendly arbitrator. Among cases it has lost are easyescape.com, easygetaway.com, easycrossing.com, easypeazy.com, easymaterial.com and www.easy-jet.com.
However, it has also won many domains. It was the arrival of a threatening letter from the group for the domain easycar.com that lead its owner to set up easyprotest.com. Its stated aim was to "to advise companies and individuals of their legal rights in relation to defending themselves against the threat of litigation and offer support, guidance and access to information that will assist in their defence and planning."
Visit easyprotest (.com, .net, .org or .co.uk) or easycar now though and you will be transported to EasyRentacar.com. We don't know when this happened but presumably it was recent and most likely through the law courts as we can't find any mention of an arbitrator's decision.
We spoke to the man listed as the site's new admin owner, Eddy Whatt at Easy Group, in the hope of clarifying the situation. For a company that represents itself as being consumer friendly and open, his response was surprising. "I can't give any of that info away," he said, before saying he'd talk to the PR department and hanging up.
Not exactly the response you'd expect from a company that claims it is merely protecting its trademark.
We've managed to track down the former owner of both Easycar and Easyprotest, Richard Lowden - a director of Eurodrive car rental firm. He's informed us that a settlement is currently being beaten out between his company and Easy Group. It's not public knowledge as yet - which may explain why Easy Group was so unwilling to discuss the matter.
There is a settlement, although he cannot give us any details as yet - but we reckon this is a lump sum of cash if Eurodrive promises not to help out any other "easy" Web sites in fighting Easy Group's Napoleonic plans.
Easy Group did threaten to sue Eurodrive, so it counter-claimed against Easy Group. Both sides then agreed they didn't want to go to court over the issue and decided to come to a financial agreement. Details of that should be out anytime soon. ®