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Is Your Internet Domain Name in Friendly Hands?

Internet domain names are amongst the most important assets of many businesses – defining their identity and providing a vital point of recognition for customers – and one case involving a polo club has underlined how very important it is to ensure that they are registered securely in friendly hands.

The club operated its website and email accounts through a distinctive domain name which was vital to its business. However, one of its former members, an IT expert, argued that he was its rightful owner. He said that he had allowed the club to make use of it for about 20 years, free of charge, because of his love of the sport and as an act of goodwill. More recently, however, he had transferred it into his own name and planned to use it to promote another polo club.

The club complained to Internet watchdog Nominet, expressing concerns that the man might use his control of the domain name to unfairly disrupt its business, or even to snoop on its staff email accounts. He responded that he had never done anything to interfere with the club’s trade or email traffic. He had worked hard for the club for many years ex gratia and out of friendship.

Upholding the complaint, however, and directing the domain name’s transfer to the club, a Nominet expert found that it was most likely that it had first been registered in the name of the club and that the man had transferred it into his name without the club’s knowledge or consent. The club had made exclusive use of the domain name and had also probably been responsible for paying, directly or indirectly, for its registration and renewals. In those circumstances, the domain name was an abusive registration in the man’s hands.