If your potential clients are being diverted to a website bearing a confusingly similar name to your own, you may have grounds for legal complaint. However, as a case concerning leading online estate agency Rightmove Group Ltd showed, asserting such similarity is one thing and proving it another.
Rightmove complained to internet watchdog Nominet after an individual registered the web domain name 'righttrade.uk'. It argued that the domain name bore a strong degree of similarity to the word 'Rightmove', which is protected by trade marks. It had sent a cease and desist letter to the individual in relation to another domain name which he had previously registered.
It was argued that the colouring, layout and general look and feel of the individual's website was similar to Rightmove's. The individual's website offered support services to tradespeople, many of whom might be involved in home improvement works, and Rightmove argued that there was a substantial overlap between such services and its own estate agency business.
An independent Nominet expert ruled, however, that Rightmove's complaint fell at the first hurdle. He found that the word 'right', when viewed in context, conveyed no specificity. It was a mere figment of eye-catching trade mark idiom intended to signal to consumers, faced with a plethora of choice on the internet, that a particular source of goods or services is the 'right' source. A search of the trade mark registry revealed hundreds of trade marks beginning with the word 'right'.
The operative words in Rightmove's trade marks and the domain name, respectively, were 'move' and 'trade' and there was no perceptible similarity between them. The absence of similarity meant that the domain name was not an abusive registration in the individual's hands. The expert acknowledged that Rightmove may have very good reasons for seeking the suspension or cancellation of the domain name. Any such complaint, however, belonged in another forum.