When christening your website, it is vitally important to ensure that you respect the rights of others – including competitors. In one case, Japanese electronics giant Seiko Epson came down hard on a British businessman who registered a web domain which incorporated the Epson brand name.
The businessman served a niche market in providing hi-tech projectors to schools, a trade in which Seiko Epson also had a large presence. The company objected when he registered the domain name epson-sch.co.uk. It argued that the website – which was derogatory about Epson projectors and recommended competing products – was disrupting its business, confusing web surfers and costing it sales.
The businessman argued that he had no intention to mislead Internet users or to damage Seiko Epson's business. He had never claimed to promote purely Epson products and schools, not consumers in general, were his target market.
However, an expert appointed by Internet watchdog Nominet to resolve the dispute found that the disputed domain took advantage of the company’s rights in the Epson mark. The effect of the businessman’s activities was to exploit the brand recognition and goodwill associated with the Epson name.
Potential customers who came across the website would, at least initially, be given the mistaken impression that it was connected with Seiko Epson. Whilst accepting that this may not have been the businessman's intention, the expert ruled that the domain name was 'an abusive registration' in his hands and directed its transfer to Seiko Epson.