The first come, first served rule on domain name registration got an official boost last week, when a judge ruled in favour of a company whose address was being used by another organisation after it had been registered.
On 22 May vice-chancellor Justice Scott set a precedent in the UK, ruling in favour of the existing method of domain registration.
The case, between Pitman Training and PTC Oxford (the plaintiffs) and Pearson Professional Limited and Nominet UK (the defendants) centred on the use of the "pitman.co.uk" domain name. Both companies had the legal right to use the name "Pitman" for business purposes and Pearson - trading as Pitman Publishing - registered the domain name "pitman.co.uk" successfully through NetNames on 16 February 1996 while its website was being finished.
But PTC, through its agents I-way, managed, somehow, to get the domain name accredited to its systems on 31 March 1996, and started using it for Email purposes.
Pearson realised it no longer controlled the "pitman.co.uk" name when it tried to transfer the name to its web site. As it had already listed the site in its books and national press advertisements, Pearson Professional requested Nominet UK return the name under the first come, first served rules. Nominet UK transferred the name, cutting off PTC's Email. PTC then obtained a temporary order restoring its Email and brought the case to court.
Justice Scott commented that domain names were a company's identity on the Internet and confirmed the status of the existing rule. He said PTC had not shown the cause of action that would allow him to make a ruling in its favour and added that there was no implied service guarantee between PTC and I-Way.
Justice Scott awarded the defendants costs and refused PTC the right to appeal.
Mark Henderson-Thynne, NetName's domain name manager, commented: "One of the UK's most senior judges has underlined the importance of domain names on the Internet and shown that the first come, first served nature of the names can be defended in the courts. This shows it is vital for companies to protect their trade and product names as domain names so they can use them in the future without confusion."
And there you have it. If you do have a name that you want to have registered, do it quickly and through the proper channels.
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