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The law around domain names explained

Domain names are an integral part of any business, so we understand the importance protecting your web address against infringement.

The process of choosing and registering a domain name can be tricky – particularly if the name you wish to use has already been taken by someone else. As can someone intentionally using a URL that closely resembles your own.

But the professionals at First4lawyers can assist clients through every step of the process from availability checking, through to dispute resolution. Contact us to discuss how we can help you with your domain name.

What are domain names?

A domain name is the part that comes after the ‘www.’ and is a piece of intellectual property that forms part of your web identity and often your email address.

One of the main reasons that a domain name is important to your businesses is that it enables web users to discover and contact you online.

Domain names can be between three and 63 characters long, and they can include letters, numbers and hyphens. Choosing one that relates to your business can be vital to your marketing; if it’s not memorable then you may find that your web traffic suffers, and if it’s not related to your brand, then your site may be less visible in search engine results.

Registering the domain name you want involves two stages: searching for the availability of your domain, and then either registering it directly or purchasing the domain if someone else already owns it.

I believe someone is using a domain name to profit from my brand – what should I do?

If someone owns a domain that is closely related to your trademark, then you may be able to claim that they are breaching your intellectual property rights. Even if they have registered the domain legally, they may be trading on your brand or deliberately trying to pass their website off as being related to your business when it isn’t.

The law on domain names is complex and changes frequently in line with developments in technology. Court action can be taken where there is a strong case that someone has infringed your trademark, passed their goods off as being related to your brand, or libelled your business.

If you have rights to a domain name that someone else has registered in bad faith or used ‘abusively’, then you may be able to use a dispute resolution procedure to address the issue.

If you wish to claim damages, or if someone is breaching your intellectual property rights, then court action may be required.

At any stage, it is essential that you seek expert advice when taking court action over domain name disputes, as it can be a difficult area – particularly if the defendant is based overseas.

I am being accused of infringing someone else’s domain name - what should I do?

Just because someone else believes they have a right to the domain name that you have registered, they won’t necessarily be able to stop you from using it.

Domain registrars grant domain names to those who apply for them first, and your use of the domain may help you to defend it in the event of a dispute.

If you have registered the domain in good faith, and you are not infringing anyone else’s trademark with your use of the domain, then you are likely to have a strong defence to claims made against you. However, there could be an option to negotiate a settlement.

First4lawyers can be of help

At First4lawyers, we can examine your case and help you to establish the strongest way to defend yourself in domain name disputes, or to go forward and take action against another party.

Contact us for a no-obligation discussion about your circumstances.

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