I bought a competitors website...

serth

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Oct 10, 2010
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... what are the legalities of directing the traffic to that website to my business.

The competitor has only the .com domain name but I have bought the .co.uk domain name. The web address is the name of their business, which is a local competitor to my business.

I am looking to learn the ins and outs of directing traffic from this .co.uk domain to my .com domain of my own business. Is this classed as defamation or something along those lines, or is it a free-for all?

If I can't direct traffic, can I leave a message stating that either the domain is for sale, or the business has shut down etc?

Many thanks
 

Darkbreeze

Titan
Moderator
So long as you don't advertise YOUR business, as BEING their business, you are fine. That is to say, legally, it is not unlawful to have a similar or same domain name excluding the .com or .co.uk part of the URL, as another business so long as you don't fraudulently and intentionally use deceptive tactics to indicate you ARE that business, when in fact you are not.

That would be fraud in just about any country that even remotely observes civil law. I am not a lawyer or attorney, but I do own several domains and have had a few run ins with other businesses trying to pass themselves off using my name.

In some cases, there may not even be any legal recourse for that business if you were to choose the same name as them. Where I live for example, you cannot copyright or otherwise attach a business name exclusively to yourself. Any other business can choose to use and register their business under the same name with the state and local business governing bodies, which typically vary from state to state and definitely from country to country. If your business is not in the UK, and you are using a .co.uk web address to advertise your business, there MIGHT however be some legal ramifications from that. I'm not sure as I do not know UK law at all.

Obviously, asking an actual legal adviser or attorney would be your best course of action before going any further.
 

serth

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Thanks DarkBreeze. I’m in the UK. So if I understand what your saying correctly, I can forward the web address to my website with my business details on it and I should be fine. However, if I ran the website and pretended to be the competitor then this would be problematic.

Obviously don’t want to start tension between the two businesses but want to make a logical move to legally get some of their traffic as less ‘in their face’ as possible.
 
Pretty sure the UK has a domain dispute resolution service. Ah, here we go.

https://seqlegal.com/blog/introduction-uk-domain-disputes

Skimming over that, if the domain name is or is related to your competitor's business name, they could file a dispute with you on the basis of trademark infringement, and take the domain away from you. In practice this can take many years, and rack up huge legal bills. So whether you and your competitor are willing to go through it depends on the two of you.

Using the domain in the manner you're implying (directing customers looking for your competitor to your website) is called squatting, and is typically frowned upon. In particular, your stated purpose falls under three of their examples of abusive registration:
  • "The domain name was registered with the primary purpose of stopping the Complainant using it."
  • "The domain name was registered with the primary purpose of disrupting the Complainant’s business."
  • "The domain name has been used to confuse internet users."
So you're virtually guaranteed to lose the domain once your competitor complains. And it'll probably only cost them the £200 filing fee. As well as tarnish your reputation with the UK domain registrar if future disputes involving you ever crop up.

People actively interested in keeping a domain which someone might dispute will run a real business or set up a real site under that domain, doing stuff which has nothing to do with the business the domain's name might be confused for. Personally, I would approach your competitor and say "I noticed you hadn't registered the UK domain in your name, so I grabbed it for you before someone else could. Let's start the process of getting the domain back into your name." and build up some goodwill. Just because you're competitors doesn't mean you have to be asses towards each other.
 
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there is a reason big named companies own 1000's of domain names. they grab every conceivable version of their name so no one can do what you're thinking or associate any other business with their name.

for instance walmart.com would not like to see a walmart.xxx there would be nothing illegal at all about the site but of course walmart would not want their name associated with a "walmart of porn" site.

i'm guessing you don't really want a legal fight you'll probably lose, so i'd just not go there.
 

Darkbreeze

Titan
Moderator
Of course, then again, if your business has the same name, and unless your government specifically restricts the use of a business name to ONE business who holds trademark over that name (In the US this is often on a state by state basis. Colorado for instance does NOT allow the trademarking of a business name in order to disallow other businesses from using that name.

For example. One business is called Straight Line and they are registered as a fictitious name statement with the state and country plus have the applicable tax licenses required. All fine and good. Any other business in the state that wishes to also call themselves Straight Line CAN and often DOES do that very thing and nothing the original business can do about it. IF however you are fraudulently attempting to mislead the general public into believing that YOU are THAT business, rather than simply a unique business that happens to have the same name, then you would be into civil lawsuit or other legal territory.)

Obviously, as I said, this varies depending on what state you live in for the US and is absolutely different for the UK and other countries. Solandri has made it pretty clear based on UK law that what you are wishing to do will be a civil law violation and is likely a waste of your time and money, and might even end up getting you in the pokey (Jail).
 

AllanGH

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Mar 10, 2019
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...want to make a logical move to legally get some of their traffic...
This statement defines your intent: to get their traffic redirected to your site, and do it without legal repercussions; presumably capitalizing on consumer confusion.

LONG STANDING PRACTICE on the Internet defines this--legal or not--as behaviour that is frowned on. You are proposing to use their reputation, and possibly their own advertising efforts and costs, to benefit you--a competitor.

Do what you want but, ultimately, you will harm your future business prospects; and may actually suffer legal damages in the doing.
 

serth

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Oct 10, 2010
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Thanks for all your answers. Really opened a can of worms that I hadn’t thought of. Will just sit on the domain name and not use it. Like many of you mention, it’s not worth any legal mess (which I didn’t even know was involved).

Serth
 

Darkbreeze

Titan
Moderator
You know, if their business is in the UK too, or if it's a business that offers services that are not region specific and don't require being geographically similar in order to provide, then you might consider contacting them and offering to sell them the .co.uk domain. Maybe fudge a bit and say, ok, kind of also a little dishonest, but better than what you were planning before, that you bought the domain and want to offer them the opportunity to buy it for a fair price before selling it to any other bidders. IDK, might just have to be learning experience and take the loss.
 

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