Domain name disputes

Useful Advice: Domain name disputes

A Domain Name is the address of a web site e.g. - broken down into at least two levels (separated by "." - the top level domain is the last part of the domain name e.g. (a UK based commercial organisation) the previous level is usually used to denote the company or organisation. The www stands for "World Wide Web".

Domain names are registered for a limited period. In the case of .uk domains this is usually two years although many providers charge an annual fee. Domains can be registered for up to ten years. It is worth registering your important domains for ten years in order to protect them. Don't forget to make a diary entry to renew the domain at the end of the registration period. There are many companies that watch for expired domains, buy them and then try to sell them back to the previous registrant at a vastly inflated price.

If you feel someone is using a domain name which you have rights to then you may be a victim of cyber squatting (or more correctly cybersquatting). This is the practice of purchasing a domain name with the intention of offering it to another individual or organisation, often at an inflated price. There is some protection against cybersquatting where the name of your company or product is protected by trademark. There is usually no reason why a company has an automatic right to a domain name. For example a company called "Black Cat Antiques" is likely to have as much right to the domain name as another company called "Black Cat Classic Cars". In such cases it is a question of first come first served. When purchasing a domain name, make sure you have purchased all the variations you feel are appropriate. The sensible minimum for most companies would be the and .com versions with and without hyphens. e.g.,, and

Passing off is another matter altogether! If you can show that a company is misleading others into thinking they are dealing with you when they are not, then they may well be guilty of the offence of "passing off". Remember that even in such cases where this is blatant you will still normally need to prove that you have suffered a loss as a result of their actions. This may be a financial loss (one sale is sufficient) or perhaps a loss of reputation.

With .uk domains, it is often possible to settle disputes by contacting the UK domain authority, Nominet. They offer a domain dispute resolution service which is worth investigating (

Hosting companies sometimes refuse to transfer a domain unless all outstanding invoices are settled. In some cases this is understandable. If a hosting company is being unreasonable, Nominet are able to make the transfer for you (for UK domains) without recourse to the hosting company.

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