Cyprus: Domain Name Disputes

Last Updated: 23 July 2001
Article by Alexandros Economou

The selection and protection of a domain name may be the most important detail in the creation of a web site. Domain names function as the address for a web site, and disputes over domain names have become more common and more heated as the popularity of the Internet grows.

This article is not about "cybersquatting." The term cybersquating has been adopted by a few US courts and several commentators to describe the practice of registering domain names that correspond to unique and famous trademarks. The domain name registrant obtains the domain name with the hope of extorting money from the trademark owner in exchange for a release of the domain name.

As already mentioned, domain names are simply the addresses of the Internet. E-mail is sent and web pages are found through the use of domain names, e.g. web address of Cable News Network is, while Larry King might have an e-mail address such as Of course, domain names are more than just addresses, since they can be selected by the "addressee" and are usually closely associated with a particular service or product.

Domain names are divided into hierarchies. The top-level of the hierarchy appears after the last dot (‘.’) in a domain name, i.e. .com where the domain name is owned by commercial enterprise, .org for non-profit organizations, .net for network and internet related organizations, .edu for colleges and universities, and .gov for government entities. Recently, seven new generic top domain names were approved (.aero, .biz, .coop, .info, .museum, .name, .pro) and are expected to be available by the end of 2001. [Incidentally, defying the authority that governs Internet names, a California startup ( began selling web addresses early March, 2001 based on twenty new and unsanctioned suffixes including .kids, .travel and .xxx].

In addition to these generic domain names, each country has been given a unique top-level domain name, e.g. .uk for the United Kingdom and .gr for Greece. It is not compulsory for anyone to use these unique top-level domain names.

The disputes that arise over domain names involve "second level" domain names (‘cnn’ in the address Two identical second level domain names cannot coexist under the same top-level domain.

Prior of December 1999, a company called Network Solutions Inc. (NSI) was almost solely responsible for the registration of second level domain names for the most top-level domains (.com, .net, .org). As of December 1999, the ability to register was spread among many registrars.

These registrars are accredited by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), a non-profit organization formed specifically to control Internet domain name management and similar functions. Following NSI’s precedence, all of these registrars assign names on a first-come, first-serve basis, and do not do any checking before assigning a new domain name.

Obviously, having a domain name that is the same as their company name or the name of one of their products can be an extremely valuable part of establishing an Internet presence. After a search to see if the desired domain name is taken or not, the company files an application with the appropriate agency.

When a company finds that the domain name corresponding to their corporate name or product trademark is owned by someone else, the company can either choose a different name or fight to get the domain name back from its current owners. When a dispute arises, the parties may turn to the courts or, take advantage of the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Policy (UDRP) that has been developed by ICANN (this policy has replaced the much maligned dispute policy of NSI).

While courts have the power to award control and ownership over domain names (just as they have authority to award control and ownership over any other property), the judicial process is, in general, notoriously slow and inexperienced in this field. Also, a possible court order suspending the web side until final judgment (or further order) could have an adverse effect on either party. Such an action could have the effect of shutting down the entire business of a domain name owner; and if the court fails to find actual trademark infringement, the party causing the suspension could be found liable for the damages resulting from such suspension. These, without regard for the age-old trademark criteria that would normally require a court to examine (although widely accepted that domain names were not meant to function as trademarks, they have become irrevocably enmeshed in trademark law).

Alternatively, the UDRP is used by all accredited registrars. Under this new policy, a trademark owner can initiate a relatively inexpensive procedure to challenge the existing domain name. In order to prevail, the trademark owner must show:

  1. That the trademark owner owns a trademark [either registered or unregistered (use, without registration, entitles the user to "common law trademark rights)] that is the same or confusingly similar to the registered second level domain name.
  2. That the party that registered the domain name has no legitimate right or interest in the domain name; and
  3. That the domain name was registered and used in bad faith.

If all three points are successfully proven in the administrative proceeding, then the domain name can either be cancelled or transferred to the complainant.

The domain name owner can prove a legitimate right in a domain name by showing, amongst others:

  • use or preparations to use the domain name in connection with a bona fide offering of goods or services prior to any notice of the dispute;
  • that the domain name owner has been commonly known by the second level domain name;
  • that the domain name owner is making legitimate noncommercial or fair use of the domain name, without intent of (i) commercial gain, (ii) misleadingly diverting consumers, or (iii) tarnishing the trademark at issue.

Bad faith may be proven by a trademark owner in a number of ways, including by showing that the domain name owner:

  • registered the domain name primarily to disrupt the business of a competitor;
  • is attempting to attract users to a web site for commercial gain by creating a likelihood of confusion with the trademark owner’s trademark;
  • registering the name primarily for selling or transferring it for a price greater than out of pocket expenses (cybersquatting);
  • engaged in a pattern of registering trademarks of others to prevent the use of the domain name by the trademark owner (a favorite of environmental organizations).
  • Some of the factors considered to determine whether or not there is a likelihood of confusion between the domain name and the trademark are:
  • the similarity between the trademark and the domain name. Names can be similar in three ways: appearance, sound and meaning;
  • similarity between the associated goods and services- not only those described in the Web site, but also those that can be obtained through the web site;
  • the Internet, unlike traditional trademark law, which requires a comparison of the geographic region in which each trademark is used, tends to break down geographic boundaries. However, depending on the circumstances this factor may apply nonetheless;
  • the strength of the trademark. Obviously, some trademarks are entitled to less protection than others. If the trademark owner can show that relevant consumers were actually deceived by the conflicting domain name, then the infringement case is greatly enhanced. Evidence of actual confusion can be a strong indication that the domain name is confusingly similar to the trademark;
  • the intent of the party that registers the domain name. For example, a clear attempt to derive benefit from the trademark owner’s goodwill won’t pass unnoticed (cybersquatting).

Of course, after the trademark owner makes the requisite showing to initiate the administrative resolution procedures, the domain name owner can stop the process by filing a complaint in a court of competent jurisdiction. In fact, either party can avoid the UDRP provisions and elect instead to resolve the dispute in court.

Domain names are presently the coin of the realm on the Internet. New technologies may eventually render domain names obsolete, but present Internet technology, both on the Internet itself and on the desktops of users, relies largely on domain names as identifiers of the source or affiliation of Internet websites.

As for the law and Internet community? They are challenged to develop new procedures and legal rules that adequately address the equities involved.

This article has been prepared for educational and information purposes only. It is not legal advice or legal opinion. Readers should not act upon this information without seeking professional counsel.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Some comments from our readers…
“The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable”
“I often find critical information not available elsewhere”
“As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”

Related Topics
Related Articles
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions