Friday , June 2 2023

Citadel wins cybersquatting fight with meme stock parody site

The case begs a lot of questions.

A picture of three private jets with the Citadel logo on them.

A screenshot of the image at the top of shows three private jets with the Citadel logo.

Investment firm Citadel has won a cybersquatting dispute it brought against the owner of

The domain owner operates a Twitter account called Citadel Air, where he parodies the investment firm and promotes the short selling of meme stocks such as GameStop (NYSE: GME). Citadel was dragged into the meme stock frenzy when it backstopped Melvin Capital, a hedge fund that took heavy losses when small investors pushed up the prices of companies it was shorting.

Christopher Britt registered the domain name in May. It’s unclear what was on the site at the time Citadel filed the dispute. It currently shows a picture of three private jets with Citadel’s logo on them and sections called “Flight History” and “Live Flight Tracking” with “coming soon” below them. A September 30 Wayback Machine capture doesn’t include the graphics.

The majority of the panel found that this wasn’t enough to show that it was a parody site (which is typically protected in UDRP) and ordered the domain name transferred to Citadel. While the decision frequently points to the “majority” of the panel, there is no written dissenting opinion.

It seems that Britt could have won the case had he merely embedded his Twitter feed into the site.

This case brings up some interesting questions. Given that Britt operates a Twitter handle called Citadel Air that parodies the company, shouldn’t that be used as evidence of why he registered the domain? Should the fact that Citadel doesn’t operate an airline have come into play? After all, what confusion is this site actually causing? Also, how long after registering a domain should a domain owner develop it?

It also highlights the binary nature of UDRP. The panel can only decide to transfer the domain or allow the domain owner to keep it. There’s no option to ask the domain owner to add a disclaimer or add to the site within a certain time period. That would probably have been a fairer resolution in this case.

Citadel is an active UDRP filer. Winston & Strawn LLP represented the financial firm. Lewis & Lin, LLC represented the domain owner.

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