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Domain name transferred without authority?


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Hi,

 

It's just come to my attention that a domain name I manage for my dad has been transferred to another registrant without proper authority.

 

It's a complex dispute, but the domain was originally bought by myself and registered with his personal details (home address, individual registrant in his name). Shortly after that, my dad began working for a company and the domain was used for their emails. Near the beginning of this year, the owner of this company made my dad redundant and he is currently pursuing them through a tribunal for unfair dismissal. On the advice of his solicitor, we have done nothing with the domain and it has remained pointing at the company's hosting/email provider.

 

Late this week, I was surprised to receive a support ticket notification from the original registrar. Whilst it does not provide any information about the nature of the request, it has attached a nominet registration certificate bearing the company's details. Additionally, the domain has disappeared from the control panel and the whois information bears the company's name (although it still has my dad's address).

 

I'm still trying to obtain further information regarding the action 123 reg and nominet may have taken. However, my suspicion is that the company has initially contacted Nominet and convinced them to transfer the domain into their name - probably by pretending to be my dad. They have then approached the current registrar with the nominet documentation and asked them to transfer the domain to a separate 123 account.

 

At the moment, I have raised this with 123 reg/nominet and I'm waiting for their responses. Is there any other action I should be taking - reporting to the police, direct legal action? Also, I should disclose that, whilst the domain was purchased with our own funds and before my dad worked for the company, it is similar to the name of the limited company the have traded under for the last 18 months. This is not a trademark, so I don't believe this would provide them with a legal entitlement to the name, but I appreciate this may introduce a little "grey" into the situation. Also, the domain name has come up in discussions between the owner and my dad, but no agreement was reached.

 

My dad will obviously be discussing this with his solicitor, but I wondered whether anybody here might be able to provide some suggestions?

 

Many thanks,

 

James

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hello, James,

 

I'd think it would belong to whoever paid for it for the length of contract. I've found a site that might help with understanding this area of law called Bitlaw dot com with a section on domain name disputes. I hope this helps a little, sorry I am unable to offer any advice.

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Did you actually purchase the domain name ? If it was bought through a hosting company you might find that the domain was registered with the hosting company and you will be sent a renewal reminder every year/couple of years.

 

It's a bit sneaky, but is the way a lot of hosts work in return for you having that domain name at a cut down price. If it's a UK company operating under UK regulations, and that is what happened, then your attention should have been brought to that particular clause in the purchase contract.

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Most .uk (.co.uk, .org.uk etc) domain names are registered for a period of two years, whilst most others (.com and so on) are registered for a period of 12 months. At the end of the period you need to pay for the renewal of the domain name. If you've failed to pay this fee then the domain name can be bought by someone else on or after the date of expiry. What a lot of people don't realise is you can't buy a domain name as such, but you actually lease the right to use it.

 

If the domain name was transferred without permission then it may be worth raising this issue with the registrar first (in your case 123-reg), and then failing that, I believe Nominetwill be your next port of call by using their Dispute Resolution Service.

 

Please note on this next bit I'm not 100% sure on this so if anyone is more knowledgeable please set me right. As you've said, the domain name was both dormant (pointing to the parking page) and similar to that of a trading company, they could possibly claim it as their own. As the domain was dormant, I believe it would be covered by cyber squatting rules which would allow the company to claim it so that a person can't hold the domain to ransom, spoof their website or use it for anything dodgy. As far as I know, you don't specifically have to hold a trademark on a name for a company to be able to raise a dispute - simply showing that you trade as a company is enough. If the website was actually being utilised for something (a family website or something legitimate) then you would have been in a stronger position as far as the resolution service goes.

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