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Domain name battle for Royal Dutch Shell Plc .com (guess who lost)

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(Unanimous decision by World Intellectual Property Organisation expert panel)


Domain name battle for Royal Dutch Shell Plc .com (guess who lost)

By John Donovan of Oct 2009

Only Shell could end up in the humiliating position of its arch critics owning the dotcom domain name for the unified parent company Royal Dutch Shell Plc.

Richard Wiseman, currently RDS Chief Ethics & Compliance Officer, has publicly boasted that he was the conductor of the legal orchestra responsible for creating the unified company from the ashes of the Shell Transport/Royal Dutch structure destroyed by the reserves fraud.

Unfortunately, he forgot to ensure that the top-level domain name for the new company was secured before the name of Royal Dutch Shell Plc was publicly revealed. Imagine the shock and horror when Shell executive directors discovered the identity of the party who had beaten them to the precise dotcom domain name for the company: my father, Alfred Donovan (now 92 yrs old).

Shell International Petroleum Company Ltd quickly issued proceedings against him in 2005 believing Shell was automatically entitled to the dotcom domain name for its own company. How could Shell possibility lose? Shell also attempted to seize two other domain names: royaldutchshellgroup .com and

From Shell’s submission:

“The disputed names and registered by the Respondent are, to all intents and purposes, identical to the company name “Royal Dutch Shell plc” and the collective name “Royal Dutch/Shell Group”. The Complainant contends that the disputed names are names which rightfully belong to the Group.”

Shell claimed in the proceedings that their “Tell Shell Forum” was “one of the few genuine corporate forums?” It was however later “suspended” (permanently) after Wiseman admitted Shell had engaged in censorship of critical postings on what had been falsely touted as an uncensored forum for open and lively debate. Some of the censorship was carried out secretly in the hope no one would notice. Another mistake. Another humiliation.

Shell also mentioned the Smart settlement, stating: “No payment was made by Shell in relation to the claim itself, although for reasons which are not relevant to this Complaint, a contribution was made to the legal expenses of John Donovan.” More Shell smoke and mirrors?. In fact, I received a secret payment and Shell paid ALL legal costs. The settlement terms were deemed so sensitive that Shell withheld them from the trial Judge who made closing comments under the mistaken impression of a stalemate result, when in fact Shell had settled the claim on its second attempt to do so during the trial.

The proceedings predictably caught the imagination of the international press as a classic David v Goliath battle with an oil giant on one side and a then 88 year old 2nd World War veteran on the other.

Selection of extracts?


“Shell Wages Legal Fight Over Web Domain Name?: Just after Shell unveiled the name of the new entity last October, Mr. Donovan — who has had frequent legal battles with Shell — snapped up the rights to the Web site.”

“The two Donovans are well-known to Shell. They have waged a long-running anti-Shell campaign dating to the 1990s revolving around disputes over the rights to Shell gasoline-station promotions.”

“In their complaint with the World Intellectual Property Organization, Shell attorneys argued that although there is no litigation outstanding between the two sides, the company believes the elder Mr. Donovan acquired the Web site “as a means of increasing his capability to disparage Shell at some time in the future.”

(Shell was right on that score)

THE NEW YORK TIMES 25 June 2005:

“Another dampener on Shell’s biggest corporate overhaul since the two holding firms tied up in 1907, is a spat over the rights to the web domain “” Disgruntled shareholder Alfred Donovan beat Shell to register the domain name. Shell has sued Donovan for the rights to the domain but while the matter plays out, Donovan uses the site to lambaste Shell management.”


THE TIMES 16 August 2005:

“AN ATTEMPT by Royal Dutch Shell to claim the website from an 88-year-old veteran who uses it to publish material that criticises the oil giant has failed. The Geneva-based WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Centre has ruled in favour of Alfred Donovan, who has said that he will not relinquish the site until the company gets rid of all the management he deems responsible for its various recent woes, notably the reserves scandal.”

Shell lost the action on all three of the domain names, partly because the relevant websites are all entirely non-commercial. So Shell is stuck with the public humiliation of a website using the precise dotcom domain name of the world?s largest company – Royal Dutch Shell Plc – to ridicule, criticise and expose the oil giant.

And worse still for Shell, we regularly receive and process email meant for the company, including job applications, business proposals and other confidential communications. This is the highly embarrassing and bizarre predicament in which the multinational oil giant Shell currently finds itself.

This website and sisters,,,, and, are owned by John Donovan. There is also a Wikipedia segment.

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