1. How were domain name owners given adequate warning of the 5-year registration period?
Domain owners had 5 years notice of the addition of the .uk domain. Nominet ran a significant advertising campaign aimed at ensuring businesses were aware of the end of the right of registration period. Most domain owners should also have received multiple reminders from their registrar. We certainly reminded our customers, by email and where necessary by phone.
However, some registrars were lamentably slow at publicising the opportunity to brands. Others have tried to add a premium to a simple process. The message of the value of the priority opportunity also failed to resonate with some brands that have had to balance their budget across their whole domain name portfolio.
2. Are there any examples of major brands that haven’t made use of the registration period?
We’re not aware of any major brands that failed to register their key domains in the .uk namespace. Some brands have not taken advantage of the option to register a .uk name that is the equivalent to one they have in the .co.uk space because they may not have viewed particular names as key names they wish to protect, or they may take the view that any usage of that name would be an infringement and they are prepared to rely on the Nominet DRS (Dispute Resolution Service).
3. Why might brands not have realised the importance of registering a .uk domain?
We think that most brands have been aware of the importance of registering a .uk domain. The Right to Registration concept was sensible. Grandfathering rights owners from one extension into another is well proven. By first extending the concept to all registrants of co.uk domains and then allowing a five year Take Up period, Nominet was trying to please all of the people all of the time.
Could Nominet have provided a safety net for brands that somehow miss the opportunity? Maybe a fast track version of its excellent DRS? Perhaps – but after five years of priority for rights owners Nominet might feel that investing more resources helping those who don’t or won’t help themselves is not going to make a difference.
4. Do you think domains are overlooked for their market value?
Brands often have portfolios running into the hundreds, if not thousands of domains. Many are now taking a more considered approach to domain registration. In our experience brands are being selective, as we advise them to be at all times when considering new registrations. Take up the Right of Registration for your key Marks. Consider what the impact would be if a lesser mark is taken by a third party. Certainly for brand owners, the issue of which domains to register is not about the intrinsic market value of the domain, it is about value to them as a brand owner themselves and the impact (to their customers and to their own reputation) of diverted traffic if a domain is used in an abusive manner. In this case most brands are well aware of the utility of domains. What they are less interested in is market value, because they don’t see domains as a significant revenue opportunity in themselves.
5. What are the potential ramifications for brands that have not secured their .uk domains?
If a brand has not secured a key domain then they may need to take some action to avoid brand infringement or loss of revenue. There are of course some common remedies for brands that find themselves in this situation. The Nominet DRS has been specifically set up to deal with brand infringement and the case of brand.co.uk vs. brand.uk should be relatively straightforward if the domain is used abusively.
6. What should brand owners do if they have missed the opportunity to register a specific domain?
What’s key for brand owners who find themselves in the position of wanting to retrieve a .uk domain that they have failed to take the right of registration on is to seek assistance through the Nominet Dispute Resolution Service in the first instance. This will provide them with a quick, low cost approach to regaining the name in cases where the third party registration is an abusive one.