Rhondda Cynon Taf County Borough Council filed a complaint with domain name watchdog Nominet after discovering that a Mr Jonathan Rees had registered the name visitrct.co.uk. But they refused to countenance their claim that his registration of the name was “abusive” and opted against taking any action.
The presiding expert in the case, Bob Elliott, found that the council domain names cited in their challenge were used by the local authority to promote tourism in their area until December 2013. He went on to say that Mr Rees then registered the name at the centre of the dispute for use on a business ratings website.
Central to the council’s appeal was that fact that it has the trademark rctbc.gov.uk and that it has registered multiple domain names for various departments, all using the initials ‘rct’ to promote services and events across the region. These included visitrct.com and visit-rct.co.uk. It argued that the name had been present on its literature and marketing materials since 2006, and that they had simply missed a deadline to renew it.
Despite Mr Rees offering no reply when approached by Nominet, they rejected the council’s plea that he surrender registration of the domain name on the grounds that the council had “failed to provide convincing evidence of the extent of recognition of any relevant name.”
Continuing their verdict, they said: “There is no evidence of the distinctiveness of the website addresses incorporating ‘visitrct’,” which would have needed to be proved conclusively for the findings to rule in favour of the council.
“The expert finds that the complainant has not established that it has rights in a name or mark which is identical or similar to the domain name, or that the domain name in the hands of the respondent is an abusive registration,” it concluded.
Although the ruling in this case rejected the appeal it serves to highlight the importance of doing a trademark search before attempting to register a business name or domain name, or anything that could constitute intellectual property for that matter. If you don’t then you run the risk of being challenged over its use and you might not be as lucky as Mr Rees from Bristol.