Post Office Triumphs in Internet Domain Names Dispute

In a case which reveals the Internet as the source of many a dispute, a businessman who tried to sell to Post Office Limited a number of web addresses containing its own name – at prices of up to £400,000 each – has been directed to hand them over free of charge by the Internet watchdog Nominet.

The businessman had touted the domain names after his plans for a kiosk-based holiday service in sub-post offices came to nothing. He argued that he had registered the addresses, including postofficeholidays.co.uk, with the company’s blessing but the latter denied that it had ever engaged in any contractual relations with him.

The company had subsequently received offers from the businessman to sell the domain names with an asking price of about £400,000 each, later reduced to £100,000. That prompted the company to complain to Nominet, the body responsible for policing the use of web addresses in the UK, that the domain names had been registered to take unfair advantage of its reputation.

Ruling in the company’s favour, a Nominet expert found that, even if the domain names had been initially registered for a proper business purpose, the character of the registrations changed when the kiosks project did not proceed and the businessman offered to sell the domain names to the company for ‘inflated sums’.

Since that point, the domain names had become ‘abusive registrations’ in the businessman’s hands and he was thus directed to hand over to the company three domain names which included the word ‘postoffice’.