The increase in internet domain name disputes is ‘a sign of the times’ and businesses need to carefully consider their online strategies in order to take control of the addresses most important to them, according to a Sheffield-based technology lawyer at Irwin Mitchell.
New figures from research body Sweet & Maxwell revealed that the World Intellectual Property Organisation has adjudicated on 2,944 disputes related to domain names in the 12 months to July 2012, which marked a 6% rise from the previous year.
Most conflicts in relation to domains arise when companies and other organisations seek to gain control of an internet address which may have already been claimed by either a competitor or a so-called ‘cyber-squatter’.
According to Joanne Bone, a partner who specialises in commercial technology issues at Irwin Mitchell’s Sheffield office, the increase in disputes could be linked fundamentally to two core issues.
She outlined: “Firstly, businesses are obviously trading more online and have a much greater interest in that space and how consumers or clients are able to access information related to them. Having the right domain name can of course play a key role in ensuring that your target audience is coming to your website.
“Secondly, the release of a growing number of top-level domain names has undoubtedly had a significant impact.
“The eligibility criteria related to the application process means it is hugely difficult for companies and organisations to claim all of the domains relevant to them, as well as hugely expensive for them to even consider such drastic action.
“Ultimately, we see these kinds of issues very often and it is highly likely that such trends will be very common for a long time in the future. Businesses just need to be savvy about how they approach promoting themselves online.”
Discussing how firms can try and protect themselves from potential disputes related to domain names, Joanne added: “Avoiding such problems is very difficult, particularly as businesses are not in a position to buy every single domain name.
“One particularly important issue to consider is the creation of a coherent strategy when it comes to their approach to online in general. Once companies understand their aims, they should quickly realise exactly which domains they will need to achieve their goals.
“Businesses need to be savvy and realise that a focused plan will help them focus their attentions on controlling the domains which ensure they get very real benefits from their online presence.”