Brands failing to protect domain names

Despite the experience of fashion retailer French Connection – which fought and lost a costly court case over the rights to the fcuk.com website address in 2000 – luxury goods and fashion marketers are still not giving their brand names enough protection online, according to new research.

Domain name management company NetNames carried out research into how effectively different industry sectors were protecting their brand names online. The fashion and luxury goods sectors fared worst, closely followed by recruitment companies and pharmaceuticals. The sector that came off best was media and entertainment, followed by financial services.

NetNames business development director Jonathan Robinson says that even though a website can be registered for as little as £25 a year, trying to win back the rights to a site name can cost thousands – with no guarantee of success. Robinson says: “We’re not advocating wholesale registration of every possible name, but we do recommend sensible pre-emptive action.”

The real problem, Robinson argues, is that most consumers will guess at a website address rather than search for it, so if a brand owner fails to register the most likely permutations, they could lose potential customers. Furthermore, consumers who see website addresses on posters, press ads or television ads frequently remember them incorrectly.

A spokeswoman for French Connection confirmed that the company has now gained legal rights to the fcuk.com website address, but was unable to say exactly how because of a confidentiality agreement.

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