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Renault Squashes Internet Entrepreneur in Web Domain Dispute

Building brands is a lengthy and very costly process and it is hardly surprising that brand owners take a very dim view of others benefiting from their goodwill. In one case, car manufacturer Renault came down hard on a businessman who used its name and well known diamond emblem on his website without permission.

Renault complained to the Internet watchdog Nominet after the businessman registered a web domain which incorporated the company's name. The diamond emblem also appeared on his website and Renault accused him of trying to hold it to ransom by suggesting that it pay him £150,000 to part with the disputed domain name.

The businessman argued that he provided a valuable service to drivers of Renault vehicles, which was not available from the manufacturer. His website generated £1,000 a week in trade and quotes and he insisted that £150,000 was a fair price, given the impact that the loss of his domain name would have on his trade.

In upholding Renault's complaint, however, a Nominet expert noted that both the company's name and its logo are protected by trade marks. Although there was no compelling evidence that the businessman had registered the domain name with a view to selling it to Renault, the expert found that his use of it took unfair advantage of Renault's goodwill and intellectual property rights.

There was a real and tangible risk that the domain name might confuse Internet users into believing that the businessman's website was officially connected to Renault. In the circumstances, the domain name was an abusive registration in his hands and the expert directed its transfer to Renault.

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