In the first case of its kind in Britain, Harrods has instituted legal proceedings against a company which has been using its name on the Internet. The writ was issued against Michael Lawrie of UK Network Services and several other companies and individuals.
According to Harrods, Lawrie and his associates applied for and obtained a registration of the domain name harrods.com. Action by Harrods in the US has resulted in the suspension of Lawrie's use of the domain name. The store already has a registration for the corresponding UK name, harrods.co.uk.
A Harrods representative said: 'Only Harrods is entitled to the domain name. We are taking this action to protect our name, our reputation and our customers, who might mistakenly believe that Lawrie and his associates have a legitimate connection with the store.'
A spokesperson for Harrod's solicitors said: 'This is an important case. There have been a number of well known cases in the US concerning the 'hijacking' of domain names but as far as we are aware this is the first British case. We do not believe it will be the last - indeed, we believe that Lawrie and his associates may have registered domain names corresponding to a number of other well known companies. While this is a new area for British law, we are confident that our client's position will be upheld.'
However, Internet barrister Nick Lockett does not think the case will be settled in court. 'Not one of the legal battles in the US over domain names has gone to a final decision in court so far and I don't see this one being any different,' he said. He added that legal proceedings could cost between #50,000 and #100,000.
According to Lockett, the Harrods case is particularly thorny because the domain name was registered in the US and not in the UK. Although Network Systems (NSI), the American company responsible for distributing domain names, has suspended the use of harrods.com, it has refused to hand it back to Harrods on the grounds that it will only abide by a court ruling.
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