The Troubleshooters – 2nd February 2006

Don’t let your workplace worries get you down. Whatever your question, Travel Weekly’s panel of experts has got the experience and knowledge to solve it.

This week, Peter Stewart on the tricky legal area of domain names – what are your rights when another company registers an internet address similar to yours? And Alasdair Cross advises a small business with a budget to match on how to join the online revolution.

Click here to meet the experts and submit a question…


Peter Stewart

I’ve had my website for a couple of years now and do a steady amount of business through it. However, just recently, I have noticed that another travel company has set up a site with a very similar name to mine. Legally, is there anything I can do about it?
MR, Llandudno

peter transparenttroubleshooters - big AIf the domain name is one, the responsible organisation, Nominet, has a procedure to resolve disputes between domain name holders. This procedure essentially involves you filing a detailed complaint. The apparently offending website will then have n opportunity to respond and an appointed expert will the report the rights and wrongs. In certain circumstances, the domain name about which the complaint has been made is ordered to be transferred to the complainant.

You must appreciate that you achieve most protection where your domain name is distinctive. If it is generic, it is less likely legal protection will cover it. There is a legal claim, known as ‘passing off’, which would entitle you to prevent your rival using its name. But to succeed in this, you will need to show that you have built a substantial reputation on your name, that confusion among potential customers is likely, and that there is an overlap of potential customers.

You do not say whether you have any registered trademarks. If you do not, it is likely to be worthwhile applying for a registered trademark of your name. It is easier to do this than to obtain legal protection. But to be able to register the name, the name will have to be distinctive and not generic.

Alasdair Cross

I don’t currently have a website, but I have decided it’s time to get into the 21st and join the Internet revolution. I only have a small business, so I want to do everything as cheaply as possible, but I don’t want to have a website that looks cheap or doesn’t work. How much should I budget to get a site up and running, and will there be any ongoing costs I need to think about?
PG, Newcastle

troubleshooters - big AThere are actually some advantages to launching your website after most others already have. However, before parting with your hard-earned cash, you’ll need to decide what you want the site to do for you.

Your budget for the design of the site will really be dictated by questions you need to ask yourself: is this a static brochure site describing your company and services? Are you hoping to sell travel products online? Are you a tour operator or travel agent or both? What do you want people to do after they have seen your site – ring, e-mail or book online? How will you get people to visit your website? What type of marketing do you need to get them there?

As for ongoing costs, such as hosting, they are very affordable these days with good-sized site packages offered for less than £10 per month. Marketing costs can be high if you need large numbers of visitors to your website. However, it is easy to forecast cost and traffic from most cost-per-click advertising.

Finally, see my answer to a reader’s Google question from issue January 13. It highlights the importance of getting your site designed in a search-engine friendly manner. You could also try reading a book on search-engine optimisation.

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