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How to become the master of your domain [INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY]

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There are a number of myths and misunderstandings surrounding the registration of a domain name.

The reality is that domain registration is just one small step toward interwebs domination, not the end goal.

The following myth busters will ensure you go online with eyes open.

1. Myth: Once I’ve registered a domain name, I own it

Registering a domain name means exactly that – you’re the registrant, you don’t own it. The registration entitles you to the exclusive use of the domain name for a set period.

When you register a domain name you agree to the rules of registration — these vary depending on the type of domain, whether it’s a .com, .com.au or .co.uk.

As long as all the registration rules are satisfied, the domain name is allocated on a first-in, best-dressed basis.

2. Myth: Registering a domain name gives me trademark rights

A domain name isn’t a trademark — the process of registering the two is entirely different. Unlike the ‘first in’ system for registering domain names, trademark registrants must establish entitlement.

If you’re using a domain name that’s identical or similar to another party’s trademark, you may be at risk of infringing their trademark — especially if your domain name relates to goods or services that are the same or similar to the trademark.

3. Myth: If the domain name I want is taken, my only option is to buy it from the current registrant

Due to the ‘first in’ domain name registration system, it’s possible that the name you want is already taken. If the other party has legitimately registered the  name, you’ll need to negotiate to purchase it from them.

‘Cybersquatting’ is a common practice where domain names are registered with the intention of selling for profit. Tell-tale signs of cybersquatting include the webpage stating that the domain name is for sale or disparaging comments about your product or service.

If the domain name of interest to you has been registered by a cybersquatter, one option is to issue formal domain name dispute proceedings. Put in place to deal with illegitimate registrants of domain names, dispute proceedings shouldn’t be used as a mechanism to coerce a legitimate registrant into transferring a domain name to you.

4. Myth: I have to go to court to fight a domain name dispute

One of the terms when registering a domain name is that you agree to the rules governing dispute resolution.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers’ (ICANN) Uniform Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP) governs disputes over .com domain names. The Australian Uniform Dispute Resolution Policy (auDRP) governs disputes over .com.au domain names. The auDRP is largely based on the UDRP.

These dispute resolution policies enable a process designed to be faster, cheaper and more convenient for the parties than court proceedings, but be sure to speak to a qualified professional before issuing such proceedings.

Typically all the documents relating to a domain name dispute can be filed electronically and the decision will be handed down within a few months.

Devita Pathi is an intellectual property lawyer and trade mark attorney.  She has over 7 years experience in the legal profession. She is the author of numerous articles including an award winning article on copyright and design laws. Devita has a particular interest in assisting small and start-up businesses to identify, protect and commercialise their intellectual property.

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