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Legal

When someone else beats you to registering your domain name

by Patrick Watson

Imagine this: you started a business some time ago and it's doing well. Now it's time to take the next step and get your business online. However, when you go to check, you find someone has already secured your business’s name with a .nz domain name registrar. Effectively, you’ve been blocked from having that online address. So now what?

Sounds like a nightmare, right? Well, here’s the good news: anyone who wishes to make a complaint about the registration of a .nz domain name that they see as unfair can do so through the Domain Name Commission’s Dispute Resolution Service (DRS). This service has been set up to provide an alternative to the court system. It’s important to note, however, that this service will not consider complaints about objectionable or offensive content on a website – only the rights to the name itself.

Essentially, the DRS states that anyone who wants to complain about the rights to a website’s domain name must prove two things.

Firstly, they’ve got to show that they have the rights to a name that is identical or similar to the disputed name.

Secondly, they’ve got to show that whoever has already registered the domain name has done so unfairly. This second rule can mean a lot of things, but it often has to do with people who are: using domain names to divert traffic to their own business’s website, using domain names in some kind of website forgery or phishing scheme, or registering domain names just so their competitors can’t.

Domain names in the .nz space are registered on a first-come, first-served basis. So, while this is not always the case, it is often true that if someone has a somewhat generic domain name - and it sensibly relates to their existing business, hobby or interest - chances are they’ll be able to keep it. However, if someone has purposely registered a .nz domain name that is the exactly the same as their competitor’s business trading name, then they probably won’t be able to.

If you do want to use the DNC-administered DRS, the first thing you should do is to go to http://www.dnc.org.nz/drs. Read through the material and either proceed with the service or seek legal advice. You should be aware that any rulings made through the DRS will be published online. The DNC is also available to assist you with general questions.

Patrick Watson is a communications advisor at the Domain Name Commission


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