10 Things all businesses should know about Domain Names

  1. There are approximately 50 million .COM domain names currently registered.
  2. In the very early days of the internet, each computer had a unique internet protocol (IP) address comprising a series of four numbers, each of between one and three characters e.g. 124.735.298.6. The internet used these addresses to locate information and to retrieve it from a particular website. Obviously, this was not practical as people would have a hard time remembering IP addresses, so in 1984, the DNS (Domain Name System) was created. As part of the DNS a new address system was created whereby computers can locate one another, known as the Uniform Resource Locator (“URL”) addressing system. A domain name is the second-level domain, in alpha and or numerical form that is part of a URL that tells the DNS where to locate documents, organizations or resources on the Internet. The domain name must be combined with a TLD (top-level-domain) like .com and must be unique to the TLD. The third level domain (www) is used to identify a particular host server.
  3. Domain names have been analogized by courts to addresses, patents, trade marks, and even by one writer to cattle. However, the best way to characterise the legal status of a domain name is by analogy to a telephone number and therefore, a domain name is not a form of property. As with telephone numbers, one can license the exclusive use of a particular domain name and transfer such licence to another.
  4. Nominet operates at the heart of e-commerce in the UK, and runs one of the world’s largest Internet registries with over seven million domain names. With highly respected industry credentials, they are entrusted with the management of all of the Country Code TLDs which end in .uk and .44.
  5. Nominet operates a Dispute Resolution Service (DRS) which provides an efficient and transparent method of resolving disputes which concern a .uk Top Level Domain. Although Nominet seek to settle .uk domain name disputes through mediation, where this is not possible, they operate an independent expert decision. Almost all of these registrations are problem-free, but about 1 in 2,000 causes someone to make a complaint. This might be based on a trade mark law, or because the domain name has been registered by an ex-employee who is unhappy with their old boss. For most people the court system is too expensive and difficult, so we provide the DRS as a fair and quick way of dealing with these disputes.
  6. When registering a domain name there are three key issues to address:
    • Ensure that the domain name is registered in your or your company’s name as legal registrant;
    • Ensure that the administrative contact for the domain name is someone in your organisation; and
    • Ensure that the domain name registration company has actually paid the registrar for the correct number of years you have paid for. You can verify all of this information by checking the WHOIS record on Nominet’s website at www.nik.uk.
  7. The registrant of a domain name is at liberty to transfer his/her entitlement to the domain name to a third party at any time. However, the procedures involved in giving effect to a transfer will be dependent upon the rules of the registry at which the domain name is regesteded.
  8. It has been held by the English Courts to be illegal for a person to register a domain name incorporating the name of a well-known company and then to try and sell it for a substantial sum of money to that company (see British Telecommunications Plc & Others v. One in a Million Ltd & Others – Court of Appeal 23 July 1998).
  9. Domain names are not trade marks and there are a number of fundamental and practical differences between them e.g. domain names are unique whereas trade marks are not necessarily unique in that the same trade mark can be registered nationally in different classes of goods and/or services by different people.
  10. A domain name can define your company’s business and how your customers perceive you. It can determine your philosophy, your identity, everything that you are. But it can also be hugely valuable and domain name have been sold for obscene amounts of money, e.g. www.insure.com was sold for $16million in 2009; www.sex.com was sold for $14million in 2006 and www.fund.com was sold for $9.99million in 2008.