Ask H&H: cybersquatting

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    Q: I set up a website for my stud — www.darkvalleysportshorsestud.co.uk. However, I discovered another website, darkvalleysportshorsestud.com, which is being offered for auction.

    I do not know how long this new site has been in operation but it will divert attention from my site.

    Having to create a new website with new domain names would cause a lot of work and confusion. What can I do?
    ER, Carmarthenshire

    In the scenario you describe, it would appear this “.com” domain is not an active website, just a domain name for sale, registered by someone unconnected to your site for profit. This is known as “cybersquatting”.

    The Communications and Internet Services Adjudication Scheme (CISAS) is an Ofcom-approved, dispute resolution service that small businesses can use to settle their disputes with member companies of the scheme.

    However, if the second domain-name holder is not a CISAS member, the individual challenging the domain name ownership would need to contact the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP).

    Registering a domain

    Confusingyl, the domain name darkvalleysportshorsestud.com appears to be currently available to register, which could mean the previous owner’s registration has expired since you found the “opposing” site.

    At the time of going to press, it was available to register — try a domain-hosting site like www.ukreg.com to register this for yourself.

    Passing off

    There is another potential legal issue for domain name holders — “passing off”. This is when another site passes itself off as your business for financial gain.

    “For example, if a site with a similar domain name and branding to yours was selling sport horses, this other website would arguably be seeking to pass itself off as yours, and thereby benefit from the goodwill you have generated in your business,” said Elizabeth Simpson, senior solicitor with Yorkshire law firm, Andrew Jackson.

    “To succeed with a claim in ‘passing off’, you would need to prove that you have goodwill in your stud name and brand; that the other website is misrepresenting itself as your business and confusing the public, and that you have suffered damage [loss] as a result.

    “Passing-off actions can be costly to prove; you would also need to look at getting the website address transferred to you. There are accredited dispute resolution mechanisms by which this can be done.”


    Andrew Jackson, tel: 01482 325242 www.andrewjackson.co.uk

    This Q&A was first published in Horse & Hound (7 May, ’09)

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