Disney has forced a British costume shop to hand over starwars.co.uk, starwars.uk and five other Star Wars themed domain names.
It’s not an easy process to claim a domain name from someone else. In most cases, once a domain name has been registered by somebody it’s theirs for however long the registration lasts. If we register Resellbiz.rocks, it’s ours for the duration of the registration period.
However, there are of course legal restrictions that can make an exception to this. This is especially true when Disney, one of the world’s largest entertainment corporations, gets involved.
Disney is in the process of taking ownership of seven Star Wars domain names registered by a small UK costume shop called Jokers’ Masquerade. The store was using these Star Wars domain names to direct traffic to their site. Among them are starwars.uk, starwars.co.uk, and five other similarly-worded domain names.
Abscissa.com is the parent company to the costume shop, and the actual owner of the UK-based Star Wars domain names. They were of course not happy at all on hearing that they’d have to hand over seven of their domain names, especially since they’ve owned starwars.uk since 2003, right after Lucasfilms neglected to renew the domain name.
Disney is making the claim that Abscissa isn’t part of Lucasfilms. Although the costume shop claims to sell licensed Star Wars costumes, they have no relation to the production studio. This has led Nominet, the domain name registry overseeing .uk domains, to take action and force Abscissa to give their Star Wars domain names back to Disney.
Mark Lewis, chief executive of Abscissa, said this about the claim:
“If the new Star Wars films by Disney were not being released, we wouldn’t be having this discussion. They wanted the starwars.uk domain, they haven’t got it, and in essence they’ve thrown their teddies out of the pram. That’s how we feel. Are we disappointed? Yes. Are we surprised? Not necessarily.”.
However, Nominet has made it apparent that they will in fact turn over the domain names to Disney. The reasoning behind this is if someone types in starwars.uk, it’s doubtful that they’re searching for an online costume shop. Nominet expert Steve Ormand said:
“The name Star Wars cannot sensibly refer to anyone else other than the Complainant. It is a unique term coined by the Complainant for the purposes of a science fiction film released in 1977…”.
Even though Abscissa is not using the domain names in an abusive way, they are still infringing on trademarks by owning a domain name of a company that they aren’t officially affiliated with.
Legal actions are still taking place, but it’s thought that Disney will soon reclaim ownership of the following domain names:
This reminds us how important it is to understand the legal details surrounding domain names. Read in more detail about what cybersquatting is and how you can file a UDRP (the process to settle domain name disputes) by reading our Laying Down The Domain Name Law blog post.