A computer retailer in Crawley has lost the use of one of its registered domain names after a challenge from a newer channel company nearby with a similar business.
Saeed Moghul, managing director of Crawley computer centre Frontline Networks, told ChannelWeb he was very disappointed by the decision of domain name registrar Nominet, which ruled that his use of the domain was an "abusive registration".
He said he cannot understand why Nominet came to this decision as his was the preexisting business and the domain name is very generic.
"Everybody, any company, that has recognised the value of search engine optimisation and Google can lose the use of a URL as a result of this precedent," he said.
The disputed domain name, crawleycomputercentre.co.uk, was registered by Moghul's company in 2002, alongside "about 20" generic domains including crawleycomputers.co.uk, with a view to maximising Frontline Networks' appearance in local web search results.
Frontline Networks was founded in 1989, and has traded continuously since that time as a computer retailer and services provider. It also trades as 'Frontline Computers'.
The rival company, Crawley Computer Centre, was founded as Business Images Ltd in 2001 and not incorporated under the former name until 18 August 2007, after it was sold to new owners Barry and Karen Jones – a fact it concedes in its Nominet complaint.
At that time, according to Nominet, the then owner also tried to purchase the crawleycomputercentre.co.uk domain, only to find it already registered to Frontline.
Business Images had traded as Crawley Computer Centre, and also had a bank account in that name. The company also uses generic URLs crawleypc.co.uk and crawleycomputerrepairs.co.uk to direct potential customers to its website.
Another similar firm, Crawley Computers, shut down in 2004.
Frontline – which Moghul said has always traded under that name and never represented itself as being 'Crawley Computer Centre' – is located on Stephenson Way, Crawley, just two miles from its competitor on Gatwick Road.
This is not the first territorial dispute between Frontline and the Joneses.
Moghul said Frontline "first became aware" of Crawley Computer Centre when an employee left to work there in 2008.
He believes that knowledge and understanding about the benefits of search engine optimisation in marketing a business was transferred to the other retailer through this "key member of staff".
Moghul also said that he took successful action via Google for copyright infringement against Crawley Computer Centre in January.
"They had copied sections of our websites, word for word," he said.
Moghul believes that the Joneses moved to file their domain name dispute with Nominet in March in retaliation. There is no charge to make such a complaint, although there is to appeal a decision.
After mediation failed, Nominet assigned independent expert Ravi Mohindra to decide the issue.
Mohindra ruled in favour of the Jones business, although he conceded that the evidence for its specific rights to the term 'Crawley Computer Centre' as a distinctive mark was weak.
"The expert has not found this case an easy one to decide, as the evidence submitted was sparse, both parties raised issues not directly related to the policy and neither party's submissions was well-drafted," Mohindra wrote.
"[However] on the evidence before him and on the balance of probabilities, the respondent would have had at least some knowledge of the business operated by the complainant's predecessor, and that it was trading under the name Crawley Computer Centre."
Crawley Computer Centre, to which the domain crawleycomputercentre.co.uk now points, did not respond to ChannelWeb's requests for comment.
Stay tuned: CRN will examine the issue of business domain name disputes in the UK further in an upcoming issue.
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