UK Domain Disputes

With thousands of domain names registered each week, it’s inevitable that some might cause arguments. We provide an award-winning Dispute Resolution Service (DRS). The DRS is a fast, efficient way to resolve .UK domain name disputes

Read on for a step-by-step guide to using the DRS. You can also take a look at the decisions of all previous DRS cases and appeals.

How it works

The DRS follows a set of rules called the DRS Policy, and follows a clear path made up of different stages.

Stage 1 – the Complaint and the Response

The Complainant submits their complaint to us via their Online Services account. We send a copy of this complaint to the registrant, and if applicable, the end user of the domain name. The registrant (called the Respondent) has a set time frame to submit a response. This is then sent to the Complainant, who can comment on it.

Stage 2 – Mediation

If there has been a response, the Complainant and Respondent can use our free mediation service to try and settle their dispute. One of our trained mediators will help the parties discuss how they could do this – they will be completely neutral, and won’t judge the case. Mediation is always confidential.

Stage 3 – Expert decision

If there was no response, or if the case couldn’t be settled by mediation, the Complainant has the option of paying a fee to appoint an independent adjudicator, called the Expert to make a binding decision about what should happen to the domain name.

In cases where there was no response, the Complainant can opt for the Expert to make a summary decision on the case. This costs £200 plus VAT.

In all other cases, for instance if the parties failed to come to a settlement during mediation, an Expert decision costs £750 plus VAT. The Expert will explain the cases put forward by both the Complainant and the Respondent.

Stage 4 – Appeal

Appeals are rare, but parties who have lost an Expert or summary decision and who want their case re-examined, are welcome to make one.

If you want to appeal, you must act within 10 working days of the original decision being made. Your appeal will be heard by a panel of three Experts  and will cost you £3,000 plus VAT.

Final stage – Closure

If the Expert awards a transfer, cancellation or suspension of the domain name, we will make the required changes to our domain name registration records. We’ll also publish the Expert decision on our website. If there was an agreement in mediation, the mediator will help the parties fulfil the terms of their agreement. If neither party takes any further action, we’ll close the DRS case file.

DRS Guidance

With the DRS, we hope people are able to settle .UK domain disputes without having to go to court or pay for legal advice. Follow the links below to find out more about the Policy, including information about making a complaint, or a response to a complaint.

Resources and links

Data Release

The .UK WHOIS does not show a registrant’s details unless they have given consent to publication. We provide registration data to third parties with legitimate reasons, such as enforcement of legal rights or use of our Dispute Resolution Service. To obtain non-public data you must submit a Data Release Request and provide us with both your details, and the reasons you believe you have the right to access non-public data.

Demonstrating your rights

The Dispute Resolution Service (DRS) Policy requires Complainants to prove they have ‘rights in respect of a name or mark which is identical or similar to the domain name’. This means rights that the Complainant can legally enforce.

To make sure a Complainant is someone who has a proper interest in the complaint, the process aims to test their rights to the domain name. This isn’t a particularly high threshold test, but to pass it you should make sure you can provide evidence of the rights you are claiming.

Parties should also bear in mind that simply showing you have rights to a domain name isn’t sufficient to win in a DRS complaint – the Complainant must also show the registration or use of the domain name is an abusive registration. Read more about abusive registrations.

Different forms of rights you could demonstrate include:

Trade marks

A trade mark of any type would be useful in demonstrating rights in a name that is the same or similar to the disputed domain name, but isn’t required. If you hold a registered trade mark, remember to include proof of the registration with the submission of your complaint.

Other rights

The definition of rights in the Policy covers all rights that can be legally enforced, so for example contract rights can be enough.

Showing when you had rights

The party making the complaint needs to prove that they have rights in a name here and now.

It will often be beneficial to be able to prove that they had rights when the domain name was registered. Although this is not essential, it may be difficult to show that someone has made an abusive registration if you didn’t have rights when the registration took place. For example, it’s unlikely that a domain name registration was made in order to prevent you from having it if you set up your business after the domain name was registered.

The Respondent’s rights

The Policy only requires the Complainant to have rights, but it’s also something the Respondent should consider. For example, if the Respondent also has rights in a name, which is either the same as or similar to the domain name, this may be useful in proving they didn’t make an abusive registration.

What is abusive registration?

To successfully make a complaint using our Dispute Resolution Service (DRS) you must be able to prove the domain name, in the hands of the current registrant, is an abusive registration. This means you must be able to prove the domain name either:

  1. Took unfair advantage of or was unfairly detrimental to your rights at the time of registration or acquisition; or
  2. Has been used in a manner which took unfair advantage of, or was unfairly detrimental to your rights.

This means that the unfair conduct can happen at any point during the lifetime of the domain name, from registration onwards. The DRS doesn’t require that both the registration and use of the domain name be unfair. It’s also important to note that unfair use of a domain name covers use for any purpose, such as for a website or email.

For example, it could be that the registration was ‘fair’ (because the parties agreed at the time, or did not object), but the use later becomes unfair – because there is a change of use, a falling out between the parties, or a change of motive.

Example of abusive registrations

Not quite sure what constitutes an abusive registration? Take a look at these examples included in our DRS Policy:

  • The domain name was registered with the primary purpose of selling or renting it specifically to the Complainant (or a competitor) for more than the Respondent paid for it
  • The domain name was registered with the primary purpose of stopping the Complainant using it
  • The domain name was registered with the primary purpose of disrupting the Complainant’s business
  • The domain name has been used to confuse internet users

The list above isn’t exhaustive, and you may have another reason to make a complaint.

Evidence that a registration is not abusive

In our DRS Policy, we also give some examples of factors that may show the registration is not abusive, including:

  • The respondent can show they have made preparations to use the domain name for a legitimate business
  • The domain name is generic or descriptive and is being used fairly
  • The domain name is being used purely for tribute or criticism

Again, this list is not exhaustive and respondents may raise other arguments to defend their registration of a domain name.

Contact DRS

If you’d like to speak to us about a dispute, please get in touch.

Contact our dispute team