Domain disputes 101: What if someone else registered the domain I wanted?

It happens all the time. The underlying principle of the domain name registrations is based on first-come-first-served basis. However, in most of the registration agreements (we dare to say in all of them) it is required that the registered domain name does not infringe upon any third party’s rights (meaning trademarks, business names, or eventually even other domain names). For such cases, the registration agreements often provide for a procedure for resolving possible disputes referred to as alternative dispute resolution mechanism (ADR).

ADR has proven to be efficient mechanism for right-holders in claiming domain names previously registered by someone else in bad faith and/or without sufficient legitimate interest. Depending on the applicable ADR rules, it is either required that the registrant both fails to prove his or her legitimate interest and good faith (UDRP, Slovak ADR Rules), or just one of these conditions (EU ADR Rules, Czech ADR Rules).

Circumstances of the domain name disputes may vary significantly. In general, the stronger is particular legitimate interest of the registrant, the weaker is the position of the right-owner, and vice versa. In other terms, the fact that the right-owner has a trademark that is identical to the domain name previously registered by a third party, does not necessarily mean that the right-owner will automatically be successful in domain dispute. Needless to say that each case shall be assessed individually with respect to all its particularities and relevant factors.

Nevertheless, most of the domain name disputes tend to be very much straight-forward. Typical scenario is that the domain name identical or similar to a particular sign is registered by a person who simply expects to subsequently sell this domain name to the right-owner, who has the interest that the domain name identical to his or her protected sign be not held by anyone else.