A disgruntled plane passenger who set up the website ihateryanair.co.uk, dedicated to criticising Ryanair, has been ordered to hand over the domain name to the budget airline.
A tribunal has ordered Robert Tyler to cease using the web address because it earned him money through commercial links to third party websites.
Mr Tyler established the site in February 2007 to publish “horror stories” about Ryanair, which he describes at the beginning of each of his articles as “the world's most hated airline”.
Recent offerings on the site include claims of poor customer service and warnings about alleged glitches with Ryanair’s online booking service.
However, from January to May 2010 the website also displayed links to other websites offering travel insurance and foreign currency, which earned Tyler a total of €365.
The airline took Mr Tyler to a domain name tribunal complaining that the site took unfair advantage of the Ryanair name for commercial gain and was detrimental to its rights.
Nominet, Britain’s internet domain name dispute resolution service, ruled that Mr Tyler had breached rules by using the brand to make money and ordered him to forfeit the domain name.
In her ruling, adjudicator Jane Seager said: “It is the very nature of a criticism website that discussion should be open and not influenced by commercial concerns.
“Thus, whilst the links to other airlines may be seen as genuine recommendations as part of an ongoing discussion about air travel, commercial links cannot.
“There is undoubtedly a link between the respondent's financial advantage and the respondent's use of the complainant's trade mark in the domain name. The respondent only earned money because of the traffic to the website, and such traffic must have been influenced by the domain name.
“It cannot be fair to take advantage of the reputation attached to another party’s trade mark in this manner, whether it be good or bad.”
However, Mrs Seager stressed that the profit was the only reason behind her decision and that critical content on the site did not constitute “unfair disruption” to Ryanair.
She added: “In a free and open society internet users should generally be able to post comments on their recent experiences or on current events, as long as such postings do not fall foul of the law.
“Any resulting disruption as a result of criticism appearing on a website (or in any other media for that matter) is merely something that businesses have to deal with on a daily basis.”
Despite the decision, Mr Tyler, from Walthamstow, London, has remained committed to his cause and moved the site to a new address.
An update posted on the site yesterday read: “Unfortunately, Lyingair won the dispute on a small technicality concerning €365 generated through affiliate deals.
“But never fear, we have already moved the site to it’s new home on www.ihateryanair.org and will continue to provide you with all the latest on how this pathetic excuse for an airline will attempt to extract cash from you through sneaky hidden charges, fly you to places that are not where you actually want to go and leave you stranded when the ---- hits the fan.”
It added: “We’re off to spend the €365 on booze to celebrate!”
Ryanair has faced fierce criticism in the past over its policy of advertising rock-bottom fares while inflating prices through a plethora of extra charges.
Its chief executive Michael O'Leary recently suggested that planes could fly with “standing-only” areas for passengers and has also raised the idea of charging passengers to use the aircraft lavatories.
Earlier this year, he introduced an extra baggage charge during the summer holiday season, which vastly increased the cost of checking in luggage for a journey.