2013 in UK web domain disputes

28th August 2014

674 complaints handled and £6.55m in legal costs saved by Nominet’s award-winning Dispute Resolution Service in 2013.

A summary published today shows that the number of domain name disputes handled by Nominet fell by over 17% in 2013. The summary provides an overview of all the complaints that were filed with the organisation’s lauded Dispute Resolution Service (DRS) in 2013, including an analysis of the outcomes and trends compared to previous years now that all the complaints have been closed. Brands using the DRS in 2013 included Lego, Swarovski, Cash Converters, O2, Virgin, L’Oreal, Coast Fashions, Barclays and St Johns Ambulance.

Nominet established the DRS over 12 years ago to offer an efficient and transparent method of resolving disputes relating to .uk domain names which are administered by Nominet. The DRS seeks to settle disputes through mediation and, where this is not possible, through an independent expert decision.

To make a complaint through the DRS, you need to have rights (such as a trade mark) in a name which is the same as or similar to the domain name you are concerned about. The DRS can usually provide a quicker and cheaper resolution to disputes than going through the courts as this service is based on free, confidential mediation. In the event of deadlock, complainants can pay to appoint independent legal experts from a panel to make a full or summary decision. All the rulings made over the last 12 years have been made public via Nominet’s website.

In 2013, 674 domain disputes originating from 54 countries were filed with the DRS.

  • The number of disputes filed with Nominet fell by over 17% compared with 2012, against a 2.7% increase in the number of domain names registered with Nominet in the same period
  • Of the 674 cases, 437 (65%) progressed through the formal dispute resolution process. 83 were resolved directly between the two parties, 87 were resolved by mediation, 177 were resolved as a result of an expert’s summary decision, 87 as a result of an expert’s full decision and three as a result of a decision by an appeal panel
  • Using a conservative estimate of £15,000 per dispute in court costs and legal fees, the 437 cases that progressed to formal dispute resolution add up to an estimated £6.55 million pounds in avoided costs
  • 369 cases, or 54.74% of the cases filed in 2013, resulted in a domain transfer
  • The majority of complainants come from the UK, but the United States, Liechtenstein, France and Denmark complete the list of the top five complainants by country
  • The majority of respondents also come from the UK, but the United States, China, Saint Kitts & Nevis and Germany complete the list of the top five respondents by country
  • The average length of DRS cases is decreasing. Mediated cases took an average of 49 days to resolve in 2013, compared with 52 days in 2012. Expert decisions and appeals also took less time to complete in 2013
  • The total number of complaints raised in 2013 represents less than one tenth of a per cent of the domains on the register at the end of the year

Some interesting cases in 2013:

  • Hvidbro-Mitchell.co.uk

This centred on a dispute between an ex-husband and wife. The respondent was the ex-wife, who had registered a domain name using the new surname (Hvidbro-Mitchell) of her remarried ex-husband. The respondent used the site to criticise her ex-husband, leading to a complaint from his new wife, Mrs. Hvidbro-Mitchell, who said that she had the rights to the name. An initial expert decision dismissed the complaint and judged that the complainant had no enforceable rights over the name, despite its unusual nature. However, a later appeal judged that the site’s content made it an abusive registration and overturned the decision, with the domain name transferred to Mrs. Hvidbro-Mitchell.

  • OpticalExpressRuinedMyLife.co.uk

This involved high street optician, Optical Express, who complained about the domain registration OpticalExpressRuinedMyLife.co.uk, a protest site about negative consequences of laser eye surgery. The DRS expert panel ruled against accusations from the complainant that the site was being funded by a competitor, and that commercial advertising on a related site made it an abusive registration. As a result, no action was taken and the domain registration remains in the respondent’s hands. This runs contrary to previous rulings that viewed commercial activity on a protest site as abusive, and highlights the importance of taking each case on its own merits.

Full decisions for both cases, as well as all other DRS cases for 2013, can be read online at the DRS section of the Nominet website.

“2013 was another interesting year for resolving domain disputes as we continued to see imaginative and challenging cases emerge through the DRS,” comments Nick Wenban-Smith, Senior Legal Counsel at Nominet. “The system continues to be a fantastic light-touch alternative to the courts in addressing these disputes, allowing the domain name system to remain fast-moving but fair, and contributing to the high level of trust in .uk websites. In a year when many new Top Level Domains are launching for the first time, brands need to recognise the value of a namespace which provides an established, robust and trusted framework for dealing with any domain disputes quickly and fairly.”

View the 2013 DRS summary.

For more information

Please contact Cathy Donald / Victoria Marnoch at Brands2Life on 020 7592 1200 or by email at [email protected]