Nominet publishes summary of '.uk' domain disputes in 2014

United Kingdom

The registry for the ‘.uk’ domain name space, Nominet, has published its annual summary of cases handled by the Dispute Resolution System (DRS). 

In 2014 Nominet handled a total of 726 complaints, 500 of which progressed to formal dispute resolution. On the assumption that each case would have run up approximately £15,000 in court and legal fees, Nominet has estimated that the DRS saved complainants around £7.5 million in legal costs in 2014. Last year saw the second-highest number of cases decided over the last five years, with the number of cases increasing by 8% when compared to 2013.

Interestingly, there was a significant rise of 51% in the number of cases where parties were able to come to an agreement themselves with the help of Nominet mediators, thereby avoiding the need to even appoint a Nominet expert to decide the case, which is good news all around.

Nominet's annual summary highlights some of the well-known brands who used the DRS during 2014, including Aldi, John Lewis, Vodafone, NatWest, BT and the Post Office. 

One of the six highlighted "interesting cases" in the annual summary was brought by Aldi, the well-known supermarket retailer, concerning the domain name ‘ilovealdi.co.uk’. At first glance, the domain name might seem to be unproblematic and a potential fan site. However, despite being registered by a supposed fan of Aldi, the website concerned was the registrant's own online supermarket. The registrant provided a reply to the allegations that the domain name was an abusive registration, claiming that he had registered it because he genuinely loved shopping at Aldi and that its purpose was to let fellow Aldi lovers make reviews about Aldi products.  

The claim on its own, if true and evidenced, would likely have prevented a transfer. However, none of the specific allegations made by the complainant were actually addressed, in particular why no part of the website explained its supposed intended purpose, nor why in fact the website itself appeared to be an online supermarket. The domain name was ultimately transferred to Aldi. 

In another of the interesting cases highlighted by the annual summary, the DRS expert ordered the transfer of ‘uffordparishcouncil.org.uk’ to the Ufford Parish Council after it was registered by a parish councillor who refused to transfer it after his resignation. 

Another interesting case mentioned concerned the domain name ‘dvla-driving-licence.co.uk’. The website concerned was an official-looking website charging people a premium for driving licences. It was clear that the website was designed to confuse internet users, although interestingly it had a disclaimer:

Our service is not connected to or affiliated with the UK government or Driving Vehicle Licence Agency and acts as an agent processing the application. These services are available from other government sources for no fee.

However the expert, whilst acknowledging the existence of the disclaimer, did not consider it to be a genuine attempt to avoid confusion, but rather "a spurious attempt by the respondent to try and defend herself against the suggestion that internet users are likely to be confused".  The result was a transfer to the complainant. 

Whilst complainants using the DRS hailed from 35 different countries, with respondents coming from 51 countries, the overwhelming majority of both complainants and respondents (75%) came from the United Kingdom.

The appeal process within Nominet is relatively unique amongst dispute resolution services - for instance the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP) has no appeal procedure. This is often criticised, although of course it is always possible to file court proceedings to block the implementation of a decision. Appeals of Nominet decisions are nevertheless quite rare, seen in less than 1% of cases, although 2014 was notable in that, for the first time since the DRS was introduced in 2001, none of the cases filed were appealed.

David Taylor and Jane Seager, Hogan Lovells LLP, Paris

The ‘ilovealdi.co.uk’ and ‘uffordparishcouncil.org.uk’ cases were decided by Hogan Lovells’ David Taylor and Jane Seager, respectively. David Taylor and Jane Seager are both independent Nominet experts. 

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