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BAA accused in net 'dirty tricks' campaign

Lawyer calls for urgent domain dispute reform

And so to BAA

Before the case had even reached WIPO though, Larkin was unhappy with the way BAA had approached the attempted acquistion of his domain.

He bought eight years ago and was using it to host a business directory for the area of Surrey, south of London, most famous for its airport. He says he was making an income from his online efforts.

He told us he received an offer to purchase the domain by a company called Houxou, which said it wanted to use the domain in conjunction with - a UK internet service provider. Initially it offered £700. When Mr Larkin refused, this figure was increased gradually to £8,000 and finally to £15,000, he claims. Finally, Larkin suggested that he might rent the domain to for £100 a week.

He heard nothing back but then, he told us, an email from WIPO arrived "out of the blue" stating that BAA was disputing his ownership of Larkin prepared to fight the case as he had successfully two years earlier when he protected his domain "" from a German bank. The resulting judgement in his favour is frequently used as part of WIPO "case law" by other Respondents.

When the case appeared to be getting out of control, however, he hired a specialist in internet law, Nick Lockett of DL Legal, to help him out. Almost immediately, Lockett told us, he found a "catalogue of dirty tricks".

A common trick by companies wanting a domain name is to offer money to the domain owner and then when he agrees to sell, to go to WIPO and inform the panellists that the domain was clearly registered in "bad faith" (one of the three conditions that have to be met for a domain to be handed over) because the person had offered to sell.

In this case, however, BAA used a third party - Houxou - and then claimed in its WIPO filings that the email Larkin had sent suggesting renting the domain was sent directly to BAA, Lockett told us. Larkin contends that he never knew Houxou was related to BAA and that he did not send that email to BAA.

Oops, I've made a slip. Twice

The situation is made all the more suspicious, we were told, by the fact that this email as submitted to WIPO was a photocopy of a printed-out version of the email. During photocopying, a piece of paper underneath the printout obscured the email's header (made clear by the lack of a second punch-hole). It was the only email in evidence to have lost its header. Mr Lockett told us: "It appears this is either a deliberately misleading or fraudulent piece of evidence."

Lockett quotes as another "dirty trick" that he received an email from BAA's lawyers as soon as he was hired by Larkin, pointing out that there may be a confusion of email addresses for his client. "We note that Mr Larkin and WIPO seem to be using different addresses for Mr Larkin's email correspondence," it read.

It turned out that BAA has been sending all relevant material in the case to WIPO and to Larkin (as the rules dictate) but using an invalid email address for Larkin - so he didn't receive any of it. The email address used was significantly different to Larkin's real address, and, Lockett contends, was an incomprehensible error for a high-powered legal company specialising in Internet law to make.

Larkin has a Hotmail email address. We won't give the real address, but assuming it was in the format "", BAA had been forwarding all the case material to "".

Lockett also discovered that a WIPO case officer had informed BAA that it was using the wrong email address forLarkin, but it continued to send case material to the wrong address even after this had been pointed out. As Lockett told us: "There are a lot of excuses that strain credibility."

Another "dirty trick" was aimed at weakening Mr Larkin's case. When a case is filed with WIPO, the Complainant has to state that no legal proceedings have been started against the Respondent. This BAA duly did. But immediately after filing its WIPO papers, it filed a cease and desist order against the company hosting ordering it to remove the site from the internet.

As such, when the WIPO panellists seek to review what use the domain was being put to, there is no site to review. Again, the fact that a domain is not being used adds weight to a Complainant's case under UDRP rules.

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