Staking Your Claim to a Business Domain
Domain names are the web addresses that link internet users to a particular website. Successfully registering one or more domain names relevant to a company has become critical to establishing a strong business reputation and online presence. Domain names have become akin to the front door to businesses and the equivalent of a direct line of communication between businesses and customers. The use of websites varies between industries but consumer and client recognition of a domain name is now an integral part of establishing trust between a business and its target market.
Cybersquatting And Competing For A Domain
Due to the value of domain names, a practice has developed known as ‘cybersquatting’ where an individual or organisation registers domain names of companies that they have no connection with. Because the process of registering a domain is relatively inexpensive, cybersquatters tend to register multiple domains over which they hold no relevant interest. The domain registration system in Australia provides that where certain criteria are met, domains may be registered on a first come, first serve basis. This means that businesses that are not vigilant in registering relevant domains may miss out on acquiring a domain that corresponds with a company’s business or trade mark.
In addition, two businesses may compete for the same domain name. In this instance, the first company to register will prevail as the proper registrant provided the company can meet the requirements of domain registration.
How To Dispute The Ownership Of A Domain
The process for disputing the ownership of a domain name varies between international jurisdictions. In Australia, the .au domain is regulated by the .au Domain Administration Ltd (auDA). auDA is the body formally endorsed by the Australian Government to administer the .au domain space. auDA has a dispute resolution procedure that provides a binding decision on parties. This process is a straightforward, cost effective and fast alternative to Court proceedings for the resolution of disputes between domain name registrants and parties that claim rights in a domain. A decision from auDA may be appealed to a Court on limited grounds only.
The procedure requires the complainant to file a complaint by applying to auDA including notification of the complaint to the registrant of the domain. The complainant may seek remedies including cancellation of the domain name or, where eligibility criteria are met, that the domain be transferred to the complainant. As part of the dispute process, auDA will address criteria such as whether:
- the domain name is identical or confusingly similar to a name, trademark or service mark in which the complainant has rights;
- the registrant has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the domain name; and
- the domain name has been registered or subsequently used in bad faith.
If a domain name is registered without a relevant entitlement, a company may have the right to have the domain transferred into its name.
Registering a domain name relevant to your business is an important part of any business marketing strategy and online presence. The domain name registration process in Australia requires an applicant to fulfil certain criteria. In addition, a process is available for disputing the ownership and entitlement to domain names.
If you would like to register, secure or defend your rights in a domain name please contact Mark Skermer, Principal or Nicholas Harrison, Lawyer on 8540 0200.
 au DISPUTE RESOLUTION POLICY (auDRP), 2010-05 13/08/2010