In light of the expansion of web domains that are now available to purchase (previous domains were limited to for example .com and .co.uk), a trend is beginning to arise to purchase domain names that may reduce those companies’ exposure to reputational risks.
It has been reported that the pop star Taylor Swift has purchased “TaylorSwift.adult” and “Taylor Swift.porn”, with Microsoft similarly purchasing “.adult” and “.porn” domains to protect their “Office” brand.
Although it is possible to recover a domain name from a registered owner through the Uniform Domain-Name Dispute Resolution Policy procedure, it is a requirement to show that the domain name has been registered in bad faith. Furthermore, it may not be possible to raise a claim and recover the domain name on the basis that the domain name infringes a registered trade mark, if the use of the domain name is a legitimate exception which allows the use of another person’s trade mark. It would then be a requirement to use other remedies on the grounds of defamation or malicious falsehood, if they are applicable.
If there are no trademarks, then the common law of passing off may be a viable possibility however all these options are reactionary and the legal costs involved could be significant. Companies should opt to purchase the web domains that may be a risk to their particular brands, before others do so.