Tuesday, June 10, 2008

How not to protect a domain name - the D4hotels saga

Remember D4hotels.com - the low cost hotels site which completely failed to protect variants of its name against cybersquatters? Well it now transpires that the ownership of D4hotels.com itself is now contested:
A dispute over ownership of the D4hotels.com domain name and website has come before the Commercial Court.

MJBCH Ltd, the leaseholder of the former Berkeley Court Hotel and the former Jury's hotels in Ballsbridge and The Towers, claims exclusive entitlement to the operation and management of the domain name and website.

It has alleged it had a hotel operation and management agreement with the two defendant companies -- Cloud Nine Management Services Ltd and Beechside Company Ltd, trading as The Park Hotel, Kenmare -- to manage the hotels as the Ballsbridge Inn, Ballsbridge Towers and the Ballsbridge Court hotel, but that agreement was terminated in February.

In those circumstances, it claims the defendants have no entitlement to use the d4 domain name and website.

...

The defendant companies deny the claims and say they at no time abandoned their rights to or property in the domain name, website or business name.

They companies say that, under their agreement with MJBCH of October 2007, they were authorised to act as the exclusive operator and manager of the hotels and that the domain name D4hotels.com was registered by Beechside in September 2007.

They also say the management agreement was summarily terminated by MJBCH in February and that at no stage had it been agreed the D4 domain name and website would become the property of MJBCH.
While there's very little detail in this report, it suggests that there was no explicit agreement as to ownership of the intellectual property in the domain name and the site itself - which if true is one of the most fundamental mistakes one can make when establishing an online business. This, together with the failure to protect domain name variants, means that I will be using this case in class as a cautionary tale.

Update (27.1.09): It now seems that this case has been settled.

4 comments:

  1. Just came accross your blog TJ after reading about you in the SBP yesterday, very interested in your posts.
    Is it legal for a company to buy a domain name variant of a competitor and direct it to their site?

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  2. Good question. The competitor may have three remedies open to them - a trademark action, a passing off action or a complaint under the UDRP / IEDRP. In a blatant case it shouldn't prove too difficult to succeed with one of these claims. In cases where the competitor doesn't have a trademark, or has quite a generic name, it may be more difficult.

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  3. Anonymous25 July, 2008

    Is ther a good source of information for Irish law as it relates to domain name disputes?

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  4. Apart from here? :)

    Kelleher & Murray, Information Technology Law in Ireland is good.

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