A faster and cheaper way for SMEs to resolve .uk domain name disputes

A new dispute resolution service to help both individuals and organisations resolve disputes over .uk internet domain names faster and more fairly, has been set up.

The service is an open channel through which to encourage disputing parties to negotiate, provided by Nominet UK, the authority that manages the national registry for internet domain names which end in .uk.

Disputes may arise when a particular domain name is already registered but a different individual or body feels it has the “greater right to use that name,” explains the authority.

Emily Taylor, Nominet’s in-house solicitor, points out that .uk domain name disputes accounted for just 0.05% of all domain names registered as of October 2001. However, “the importance to the individual or business concerned is such that a solution must be reached as swiftly as possible.”

The dispute resolution service is there, explains Taylor, to “protect people, including small businesses, against predatory practices”, such as somebody buying another company’s name and selling it back to them at a premium. The service also tries to achieve a fair balance between disputing parties in cases.

Nominet’s .uk domain name registration process works on a first-come, first-served basis, Taylor says, so there is no guarantee even the huge corporations will get the name they want. In some cases, then, an individual or small company may find themselves pitted against a large organisation in a domain name dispute. The service is there to provide a “relatively, cheap or quick alternative to going to court.” As Taylor points out, small businesses may not have recourse to the more expensive route.

The dispute resolution service, which offers free mediation at the first stage, works to strict deadlines to ensure that disputes are dealt with as speedily as possible:

  • The registrant of the .uk domain name must respond to the complaint in no more than 15 days
  • Nominet staff have a maximum of 10 days in which to mediate the process (which is a free service)
  • If a mediated resolution cannot be achieved, the written submission is then sent to an independent expert, who has to reach a final decision within 10 working days
  • The party that has brought the complaint, will be asked to pay £750 (plus VAT) within 10 days of being asked, to cover the costs of the expert’s decision.

Should the registrant ignore the complaint against them, the party making the complaint may still proceed to have the case referred to an independent expert. The service does not replace the Courts’ role, but it is open to all, and its decision is binding on all parties involved.

Individuals or organisations that submit a case to the service, must show they have rights in the domain name. They also have to provide evidence that the domain name has been registered or used in a way which took “unfair advantage or was unfairly detrimental to the complainant’s rights,” states Nominet.

For further information, see the Guide to the Dispute Resolution Service, available from Nominet.

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