Running A Website - Are You Weaving A Tangled Web?

Author:Ms Abigail Lewis
Profession:Lawrence Graham LLP

The world-wide web celebrates its 16th birthday this year; sometimes it can be hard to take in quite how many aspects of our lives have been revolutionised by the internet in such a short space of time. With so many companies now carrying out all of their business via the web, this article takes a canter through some of the things to consider when setting-up and operating a website, especially one enabled for e-commerce.

Domain names

One of the first steps in creating almost any website is to decide on a domain name. This is the combination of letters and characters that will form the basis of the website and email addresses. Domain names can include only the letters a to z and the numbers 0 to 9 and it must also include a domain name extension (also called a top level domain name), the most common of which (.com and are now familiar to almost everyone.

Originally .com was intended for commercial organisations, .net for internet service providers (ISPs), and .org for non-profit making organisations. Sixteen years on and hundreds of extensions have been established and nearly anyone can register a domain name with any of them. Even so .com is generally still seen as the most valuable extension, the one that most companies seek to register first, although many UK companies find the UK-specific sufficient if they trade only within the UK.

Once you have decided on the right domain name you need to find out if it is still available or if it has already been registered to somebody else. This is very straightforward; simply search the WHOIS public database. And even if your favoured domain is already registered it may still be possible to buy it. The easiest way to do this is usually through a broker.

It is also worth bearing in mind that domain names have no direct relationship with trademarks; just because a company has registered a certain trade mark this does not necessarily mean it is also entitled to register a similarly-styled domain name. However, the registering of a domain name which incorporates the registered trade mark of a third party may infringe that party's trade mark. It is also possible to build up rights in a domain name which may then be capable of protection as a trade mark.

Many companies register similar domain names but with different extensions in order to 'reserve' the name and prevent anyone else from using it. Registration does not provide perpetual ownership but it does mean that for as long as the...

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