A dispute over ownership of the D4hotels.com domain name and website has come before the Commercial Court.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.
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.
Update (27.1.09): It now seems that this case has been settled.