The virtual world is a place that people initially thought gave them the right to do anything. This is not so. There are as many rules and regulations in place to manage your virtual life as your physical one. Protecting your name and rights from the abuse and copying by competitors and third parties can be difficult online but there are ways and means.
For example, consider a drinks company called Hydrate who have the domain name hydrate.co.uk and also have the registered trademark for the name Hydrate in the UK. Another company can then come along and register a similar domain name, say hydratedrinks.co.uk, and the original company will find themselves competing with someone with a very similar domain name.
It is possible for companies to file a complaint against the registration of a domain name to give themselves a chance to recover or cancel it. In 2012 there were approximately 200 domain disputes a month and around 88% resulted in the successful transfers to the company who raised the dispute. Many of the disputes were companies who we all know and recognise, Audi for example, but this doesn’t mean you can’t have a positive result too if the issue came up.
A consistent brand image is integral to your business success. From your social media management to your web address you want to be able to keep the same name without clients potentially being directed to other people’s sites.
Nominet UK Dispute
In the example we gave above –hydrate.co.uk vs. hydratedrinks.co.uk it would be perfectly possible to raise a domain name dispute with Nominet. Nominet are responsible for all the .uk domains and they have a set procedure follow when raising a dispute. You will need to be able to show evidence that:
1. You have rights in a name which is the same or identical to the domain name
2. The registration of the domain name is an abusive registration
It’s also important to remember that having the matching trademark may strengthen your case but it isn’t a necessity when raising a Nominet dispute. The dispute can be based wholly on rights to the name through use. Registering your trademark is of course the best option as proving evidence of your reputation using the name is difficult without one.
Abusive registration can be defined in many ways such as trying to sell the domain to your competitor or if it disrupts your business unfairly or is being used in a way that confuses people or makes them think it’s connected to your business. There are fees involved with raising a dispute but they are usually manageable for most SMEs.
A .com dispute is a little harder to deal with and the official fee to bring a .com dispute sits at $1500 presently, much more expensive than a Nominet action. Professional legal advice maybe necessary and if you’re lucky you may be able to discuss the dispute with the domain owner before taking it to a legal level.
The main lesson from this is to realise that even if there is an issue with a domain name you can resolve it. Though there may need to be legal intervention it is worth it for the protection of your brand.
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