Nominet defends claim by Cartier International AG

22nd January 2014

Nominet has filed a defence against a high court injunction claim by Cartier International AG.

The claim centres around 12 websites which contain content Cartier believes infringe their intellectual property (IP) rights.  If successful, the injunction would have the effect of forcing domain registries such as Nominet to automatically suspend web addresses based on a private company’s belief that the associated websites infringe its IP.

Nominet considers that the Cartier legal action is not only superfluous and mis-directed, but would also set a damaging precedent.

Nominet consistently takes action to protect both consumers and brand owners using established and effective procedures.

When notified of Cartier’s action, Nominet treated this as a standard data quality complaint and as a result suspended eleven of the domain names cited.  The remaining domain name had already been cancelled prior to the complaint.  In contrast, the claimant chose not to use any of the established mechanisms of recourse, even when those were brought to their attention by Nominet, in favour of court action.

In correspondence, Cartier has stated that it aims to use the UK as a test case to “establish a precedent that can be used to persuade courts in other jurisdictions where registries are less co-operative.”

This appears to acknowledge that there are already adequate mechanisms in place to pursue complaints about any website connected with a .uk domain name.

As a responsible registry, Nominet plays its part by ensuring that domain names do not infringe brand rights, and by a commitment to holding good data on its registrations so that consumers and businesses know who they are dealing with.  Registrations with poor quality data are suspended when identified via proactive checks or brought to our attention by third parties.

Companies can report concerns about the content of a website – for example sales of counterfeit goods – to the police to determine criminality.  Private companies can also take civil action against the owners of websites whose content they believe infringes their rights.  If this is not possible due to lack of accurate data, Nominet will suspend registrations.

Lesley Cowley, Nominet CEO, said:  “Nominet has an excellent reputation for running the .uk registry for public benefit, balancing the open nature of the internet with due respect for legal rights.  We have processes and procedures already in place that work well. It is disappointing that the point of the legal action is not the suspension of the domains in question – which has already happened – but to place legal liability on domain name registries elsewhere for the content of all the sites connected to their namespace. ”

We will update members in due course.