THE GROWTH in the number of internet domain name registrations finally looks to be on the wane. Recent figures from Nominet.uk, the domain name registration group, show a sharp fall in the number of UK registrations in May, following a similar steep fall in April. The figures show that a total of 151,248 new domain names were registered in May compared with 190,907 in April. Registrations peaked in March when 245,967 new domain names were recorded.
There could be a number of reasons for the fall. One is that many of the most obvious names have already been taken.
Another factor is the fall in internet stock market valuations since the peak in March. The deflation of the technology investment bubble means the flood of start-ups has been dammed.
But there could be other reasons for the fall. One is that Nominet only registers domain names which end with the dot.uk suffix. As the dot.com suffix gains increasing dominance over other styles due to its more international appeal, the attractions of dot.co.uk or dot.net.cuk names are waning.
Legal firms report a surge in the number of corporate clients seeking to transfer their original dot.co.uk name to the dot.com version. Tesco recently did this to operate its Tesco online shopping service as Tesco.com. But other firms have encountered problems, finding the dot.com version of their name has already been taken.
A further reason for the decline in registrations could be the legal crackdown on cybersquatting, where an individual or company deliberately registers a domain name with the view to selling it on at a profit.
One case settled last Friday saw a British company ordered to hand over ownership of two web sites using the name of the Nasdaq stock market. Deltacross, based on the Isle of Man, was ordered to return the domain names nasdaq- europe.com and nasdaq- europe.net to the Nasdaq market in the United States. In Europe Nasdaq is currently using the rather cumbersome address nasdaq- euromarket.com.
Eversheds, the legal firm, set up a new service dotcomresolution.com to give legal advice to start-ups on domain name registrations. But it has found itself inundated with work coming from blue chip clients seeking to settle disputes on domain name ownership.
According to Ian DeFreitas, a partner in intellectual property at Paisner, the City law firm, the law is firmly on the side of the holder of the legal trademark rights rather than the owner of the domain name. There was a landmark case in this area two years ago when a company called One in a Million was ordered to hand over the domain names virgin.co.uk, burgerking.co.uk and marksandspencer. …