Gavin Webb writes:
A little over two weeks ago, I decided to put up the form you see on this site to gauge what interest there was amongst fellow liberty-minded individuals in getting involved with a new libertarian political party.
Up until today, there had been a steady stream of interest; that was until I noticed that this website had been suspended. Looking further into it, my hosting provider had been contacted by someone with a complaint about a copyright violation.
The contact had come through Ian Parker Joseph, who writes as if he is acting as a lawyer for the party. He is in fact their hosting provider an a good friend of Andrew Withers, who we last wrote about in March.
I write on behalf of my client The Libertarian Party UK – Registered with the Electoral Commission RP 2517848 (GB)
It has been brought to our attention and it has been noted somebody using domain names libertarianparty.org.uk and libertarianparty.co.uk that is passing off, and stating that they are trading as the Libertarian Party. These domains have been registered via Fasthosts.
The Libertarian Party UK have no member by the name of Gavin Webb. The Libertarian Party UK have already closed down one unauthorised bank account in the name of the ‘Libertarian Party’.
This abuse has also been reported to the authorities via Somerset & Avon Police under an ongoing Criminal Complaint 85080/11.
We request that the above mentioned domains (libertarianparty.org.uk and libertarianparty.co.uk) be suspended pending further police investigation.
FastHosts are not known for being brave in the face of such letters, but the claim of passing off seems to rest solely in the use of the words “libertarian party” which name a registered party and not a registered trademark. There is an interesting policy / legal question as to whether those words could constitute a trademark, but it is obvious that Gavin is not attempting to pass himself off as the old LPUK. Indeed the whole point of the site is to help replace them with a “new force”.
Tim Carpenter explains how this is so disengenious:
[What the old party] fail to mention is that you were a member at the time you created the domain, that legal issues were more about THEM and that you were not the creator of any [bank] account.
Anybody with a grain of libertarianism in their veins would not have written such a blagging letter to your hosting service full of innuendo, half truths and disingenuous puff.
I may write further about the bank account, since this is something AW keeps returning to and mischaracterising. For now, notice that it is given as backup for the claim of passing off. Suffice to say the bank account was set up by a registered legal officer of the Party (the same claim to legitimacy AW used upto the latest AGM) and it was announced openly. It was set up after AW had resigned and someone needed to run the party without him. The officer concerned was not Gavin Webb.
Whatever your views on the validity of intellectual property this twisted exploitation of legal authority is undignified and wrong and demonstrates why Gavin is right to be gathering expressions of interest in forming a new party.
I wrote about the organisation and funding needs of such a party last week.
UPDATE: paragraphs have been added to include mention of the bank account, which had left the article unclear as to why the “passing off” allegation is indefensible.
UPDATE 2: Andrew Withers has posted on the Party site suggesting that the WHOIS record said that Gavin Webb was “trading as the Libertarian Party”. This out-of-date entry in an obscure database is the stated justification for the “passing off” claim. I have notified Gavin of this, who is updating the WHOIS database. He was unaware of the details Wither’s posted, Andrew had not brought it up with Gavin before compaining or posting about it.