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Legal Issues Arising in eCommerce Business Domain Name Disputes 

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As an eCommerce brand, your website is essential for running your business, as this is where you trade from. Domain names are fundamental to eCommerce businesses like yours. Your particular domain name is the name of your website, which is how your online customers know and recognise your eCommerce brand on the internet. However, with a domain name being so significant to an online brand, it is possible to find yourself in a domain name dispute about a disputed domain name. For example, you may be involved in a dispute with a trade mark owner over trade mark rights where you need to go through the dispute resolution service with a dispute resolution service provider or even court action and court proceedings. It is, therefore, important to take legal advice. This article will present some potential legal issues in UK eCommerce business domain name disputes.

A domain name dispute is where a business such as your eCommerce brand finds that another company uses and registers the same or very similar domain to your domain name. It could also be the same or very similar to your business trading name.

As an eCommerce brand, your domain name is crucial for your business and branding. It is how your customers identify you. If you are unfortunate enough to fall into a domain name dispute, several legal issues may arise. We look at some of these below.

Who Registered the Domain Name First?

There are two legal issues concerning registration that could arise in an eCommerce business domain name dispute. One is concerning whether you or the other online business registered the domain name first. This is because whoever did is likely to be the person expected to win the domain name dispute.

If the other business registered the domain name before you, you must prove they did so in bad faith. This applies both to their use of it and any domain name registration. However, for the co.uk domain, you only need to prove bad faith for the use of the domain name.

The other legal issue about registration which may arise in a domain name dispute is whether either party owns a registered trade mark for the domain name. This will not contain the suffix of the domain name, so the .co or co.uk. Where a registered trade mark exists, this party likely has the upper hand in terms of the law in the domain name dispute.

Is Your Business Domain Name a Renowned Name?

A further legal issue that can arise in a UK eCommerce business domain name dispute conference is whether or not the domain name is a renowned name. What this means is if the domain name is either a:

  • celebrity’s name or
  • well-known brand.

Whilst it is unlikely that your eCommerce brand has yet made it to celebrity status, you could have become a well-known eCommerce brand in your niche market. If so, the legal issues that arise when another uses your domain are:

  • how well your brand is known; and
  • whether the other business uses your name to trade off your success.

Should your brand be well known, and you can reasonably show it is likely the other business leveraged your brand’s popularity for commercial gain, you are likely to win the domain name dispute. If not, it could be that the other business used your domain name by mistake.

What is the Method of Resolution for the Domain Name Dispute?

An issue that may arise in UK eCommerce domain name disputes is the legal issue of how you resolve the domain name dispute. Your choice is an essential issue to consider as the method may affect the result in terms of what you are looking for. If you want to receive closure and get your domain name back, usually a domain arbitration case is sufficient. The results of these are legally binding to the parties as the procedure is specified in the contracts the parties sign.

However, if the domain name dispute is particularly urgent for your eCommerce brand or serious, going to court may be the correct method. This also applies if you are looking for damages for the domain name dispute or when you want payment for your costs. If the other party takes you to court, you should be mindful that if the court issues an injunction against you this could severely damage your brand.

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Key Takeaways

A domain name is the name of your website address that your customers associate with your brand. Domain name disputes between eCommerce businesses are common. It is possible to find your online business in a domain name dispute where you and another company claim a domain belongs to you both. Where this occurs, legal issues may arise. This article explains some of these. It explains that registration can be a legal issue arising both from the domain name and any relevant trade mark. The article also considers the legal point of whether the domain is a renowned name and, if it is, what this means. Finally, the article considers the legal issue of what route to take to resolve your domain dispute.

If you need help understanding the legal issues that can arise from disputes regarding eCommerce business domain names, contact our experienced eCommerce lawyers as part of our LegalVision membership. For a low monthly fee, you will have unlimited access to lawyers to answer your questions and draft and review your documents. Call us today on 0808 196 8584 or visit our membership page.

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