Question Mark on Domain Names

Article excerpt

Byline: By Mark Evans

Websites. Just about every business has one, from sandwich bars to multinational banks. Companies' marketing departments compete for the most memorable web address, or domain name, to ensure their website has as many potential customers visiting the site as possible.

Domain names are unique, and there is frequently competition from companies in any number of countries to obtain the best.

Domains such as business.com change hands for millions of pounds, so it's hardly surprising that there is a growing industry of businesses making speculative domain name registrations for the sole purpose of re-selling them at a mark-up to other companies.

Some companies fell foul of the law by registering domain names containing or extremely similar to existing trademarks in the hope of selling them on to the trademark owner at a massively inflated price. Instead they found themselves sued for trademark infringement by the very same companies they had hoped to sell to.

Less scrupulous individuals have attempted to hijack high value domain names from their owners' control by employing fraudulent means to convince the organisations which maintain the ownership registers for domain names (known as registrars) that a legitimate transfer has taken place. Given the amount of money changing hands for domain names, and the number of times courts have dealt with domain name disputes, it may surprise you that until recently the UK courts had not ruled on whether domain names are goods or just a contractual right to be included on the relevant register as the party controlling the domain name. …