Golf club wins domain name fight

Posted: 9th September 2013

GolfThe Woburn Golf and Country Club has won a dispute with a company based just five miles away that registered a website domain name which threatened to confuse the public.

The world-renowned club, host to many top golfing events since it opened in 1976, objected after Global Publications Limited registered 'woburngolf.co.uk' as a domain name. The company, which acquired the web address in 2004, was ordered to hand it over, free of charge, to the £5.8 million turnover club by Nominet, the body that polices Internet domain names in the UK.

The club argued that it was 'inconceivable' that Global did not have it in mind when it registered the domain, which had been used to advertise golf breaks, accessories and clothing. Although the domain name was currently inactive, the club - which makes more than £700,000 per year from selling branded goods in its professional shop - argued that there was a real threat that it could be re-activated and used in a way likely to sow confusion.

Global, which was said to have a portfolio of more than 950 .uk domain names, was accused of piggy-backing on the club's good name and 'taking unfair advantage' of its goodwill. The company had filed no response to the club's application for the domain name's transfer.

A Nominet expert found on the balance of probabilities that Global had registered the domain name in the knowledge of the club's rights and was threatening to use it in a way that would confuse Internet users into believing it was in some way connected to the club. The club had given 'no explanation' for the nine-year delay in challenging the registration; however, the expert found that it had proprietary rights in its name and that the domain name was an 'abusive registration' in Global's hands.