There are very few conceivable instances in which the iconic Paris-based cabaret show, Moulin Rouge, and a Geordie pizza takeaway could come into conflict, but domain name registration is one of them.
Moulin Rouge took issue over a certain pizza takeaway’s registration of the domain name moulinrougewinlaton.co.uk and took its complaint to Nominet’s Dispute Resolution Service (DRS). The complaint succeeded, with an independent expert determining that the web pages submitted in evidence by the cabaret operator showed a clear intention to associate the pizza business with the rather more famous Parisian establishment. The story caught many people’s attention and was not only covered by The Sun but also had a mention on BBC’s Have I got News for You.
This is just one of the diverse and interesting cases that Nominet’s DRS deals with each year, as published in our review of 2018. The report shows that the number of domains disputed remains broadly static, with a slight decrease in 2018 – 763 vs 783 in 2017. The number of complaints brought remains historically very low in proportion to the total number of .UK domain names at around 0.0063% or one in 16,000.
Nominet has been running the DRS as a speedy and low-cost alternative to going to court to resolve relatively straightforward disputes over domain names since 2001. In addition to its well-regarded mediation component, the DRS provides rights owners a robust and efficient alternative to using the public courts service. This has significant costs savings; for example, the cases we dealt with in 2018 would have incurred an estimated £6million in costs if processed by the legal system. At Nominet we pride ourselves that there is no compromise to the care and quality of the service that we provide, with the operational costs being covered by general registration income. Whilst we encourage parties to settle their differences amicably via our free mediation service, where this is not possible we have an external panel of independent experts who will rule on cases on the basis of our DRS Policy. Many of these experts have been working with us for years, and you can find out more about them in the Q&A series we run on the Nominet blog.
In 2018, the service was used by a few names you might recognise: Mastercard, Bloomberg Finance, Lockheed Martin Corporation, Rightmove and Superdry. The most common industries using the DRS were banking and automotive, and while most cases were brought to us from the UK, we also received cases from 26 different countries, with respondents hailing from 41 countries. It is a multi-national service indeed. Speed of outcome is also very important for DRS users and we continually look to make system and process improvements to bring this down. In 2018, the average length of time from a case being filed to being closed was just 50 days – a week shorter than in 2017, when it averaged 57 days. A swift response and speedy action are important when concerns are over domain names because the digital world moves fast. Disruption can be caused very quickly in cyber space if a domain name is being misused.
While many disputes are issues of trade mark infringement, others can be more serious case of fraud. Her Majesty’s Revenues and Customs (HMRC) is the term most frequently used in ‘phishing’ attacks in the UK. Which of us hasn’t had an email from a suspicious HMRC address congratulating us on our massive tax rebate and asking for bank details? HMRC is a familiar name to our DRS team and one example of a complaint the organisation lodged in 2018 was against the domain name registrant for hmrc-tax-gov.uk. HMRC won the case. Whilst the domain did not appear to direct to an active website, domains like this do have the potential to be used for phishing attacks and be incredibly damaging.
Nominet’s DRS is not the only way we remove phishing sites from the .UK domain; in July 2018 we started a project, Domain Watch, where terms with a very high association with phishing attacks are identified at the point of registration and prevented from being used until enhanced checks are carried out. (You can find out more about it in a blog from our CISO here.)
It’s worth noting here that this HMRC DRS case concerned a domain ending in just .uk (as opposed to the more familiar co.uk). This shorter domain name ending has been available as a choice for an internet address for five years now. Where a co.uk domain had already been taken up, the shorter version was reserved for a five year period ending on 25 June. Around 1.7 million additional domains became available after this point and it will be interesting to see whether this leads to an increase in disputes going forward.
With another year under our belt – and another year closer to our 20th anniversary of the DRS – we will continue to refine our processes, review each year as it passes, and streamline our service so that we continue to offer a welcome, efficient solution for domain name disputes across the .UK domain for many years to come.
Find out more about the DRS on our website.