Am I Legally Entitled To My Domain?

19 replies
Hey guys,

Basically here's the story, a client of mine has taken over a hotel that went into receivership and they're relaunching soon. I've been designing a new website for them but the previous owner has still got the old website live and has posted on it that the hotel is closed for business and is not expected to re open again.

We've spoken with the previous owner who has no interest in selling on the domain name to us and has actually threatened to try mess with the new site (obviously by posting false information on the old hotel website)

So they're not willing to sell on the domain name to us, where do we stand from a legal point of view with this? Are we entitled to the domain name, firstly because it's part of the hotel business which he no longer owns. Secondly it's now falsely advertising that the hotel is closed and thirdly because the domain name is actually the name of the hotel?

I'd appreciate any input you guys may have on this

Thanks
#domain #entitled #legally #website
  • Profile picture of the author webapex
    Only considering some possibilities. I have to wonder if retroactively copyrighting or registering the hotel name as a trademark would allow cyber squatting laws to be employed, that might be the only basis for taking the domain name, the misinformation sounds more like a civil court slander case.

    Some light reading
    http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/propert...gislation.html

    Here's the first internet attorney who came up (LA)
    http://www.syversonlaw.com/
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  • Profile picture of the author Alexa Smith
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    Originally Posted by robobobo View Post

    where do we stand from a legal point of view with this?
    I wish you well with it, but clearly it's legally complicated, isn't it? Doesn't that suggest that a lawyer is a better person to ask than a bunch of internet marketers?

    The specific danger with asking us is that you might find someone here who's been involved in what looks to a layman like a similar case, that might be legally different, and then you can really get misled.

    http://www.warriorforum.com/main-int...al-advice.html
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    • Profile picture of the author robobobo
      Thanks for your replies guys.

      I'm just not too sure how we stand with this sort of thing, as I know pretty much anyone can have a domain name of what they like generally as long as it's not infringing on copyright.

      I'm just trying to figure out if I actually have something to go on here rather than just saying I want the domain name because I want it. But it does appear like some cyber squatting is going on here
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      • Profile picture of the author AnniePot
        Just a thought: if the hotel went into receivership, doesn't everything associated with the hotel pass on to whomever subsequently owns it? Surely this would include the original website and its domain name, etc.

        As Alexa so rightly suggested: consult an attorney specializing in bankruptcies.
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        • Profile picture of the author robobobo
          Originally Posted by AnniePot View Post

          Just a thought: if the hotel went into receivership, doesn't everything associated with the hotel pass on to whomever subsequently owns it? Surely this would include the original website and its domain name, etc.

          As Alexa so rightly suggested: consult an attorney specializing in bankruptcies.
          Yes this was my thought exactly, so it should definitely legally be the property of the new owners then

          The past owner is just being a right pain and is not giving us anything willingly at all. Sounds like an attorney will be the only route
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          • Profile picture of the author Kay King
            [QUOTE]it should definitely legally be the property of the new owners [QUOTE]

            You don't know that - it depends on how the initial legal papers were set up.
            Don't play armchair lawyer - get a legal opinion.

            Of course the person isn't being cooperative - he lost his business and has no incentive to help the person who took over that business.
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        • Profile picture of the author tpw
          Originally Posted by AnniePot View Post

          Just a thought: if the hotel went into receivership, doesn't everything associated with the hotel pass on to whomever subsequently owns it? Surely this would include the original website and its domain name, etc.

          As Alexa so rightly suggested: consult an attorney specializing in bankruptcies.

          This is what I was going to suggest.

          You will definitely need to employ an attorney in this action, and it could come down to the fact that the original owner "withheld part of the assets" from the debt collector, from whom your client bought the property.

          In the meantime, set up another website, and outrank the old one. Be sure to indicate on the website that the hotel is now open "under new management".

          Then set up some blogs that talk about the hotel, and help those to outrank the old site.

          If you push the old website off of page one, it won't matter that he still owns it, because no one will find it.

          You might also be able to contact Google and let them know that the old site is claiming ownership of your property. This might get the other site blacklisted in Google.

          Also, be sure to claim the hotel listing on local directories like google maps, yahoo, bing, yelp, etc.

          And if he smears the hotel on your new website, be certain that you have good tracking in place to identify the person posting the comments on the site. Force them to use a non-hotmal, non-yahoo, non-gmail email address, then connect IP addresses to all comments. Very likely, you will force him to leave a breadcrumb trail that you will be able to use to sue him later. LOL

          The bottom line is that you have the financial wherewithal to crush the old owner. And if he is a thorn in your side now, it will probably be a good investment to be a bigger thorn in his side than he in yours.
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  • Profile picture of the author sbucciarel
    Banned
    Only an attorney can sort this one out. The new owner should have the intellectual property rights, but if the old owner is not giving it up, your client will have to take it to court most likely.
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  • Profile picture of the author Thomas Michal
    Hey, when I use to need cheap/free leagal advice I would hit up the local law schools in my area and offer inernships or reference letters, because brand new law grads are usually looking for real life experience. However, there are obivous draw back to using them, but its an idea if you strapped for cash and you will almost certainly get better advice than on here.

    Also please excuse my punctuation. I'm using a kindle fire that's goofed up.
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  • Profile picture of the author startup
    where are you? I have a background in this field but some of the folks here are on target...your legal remedies are impacted by a myriad of factors that are jurisdictional and are affected potentially by copyright and other issues.

    An short phone conference with a corporation atty at minimum in your locale should resolve the question if not the issue
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  • Profile picture of the author travlinguy
    I'm not a lawyer but this isn't all that hard. When someone buys a piece of property whether it's residential or commercial there should be a part of the contract that lists everything that comes with the property.

    You're assuming that because the domain name and the hotel name are the same that you are entitled to the domain name. That's not necessarily true. I'd even go further and say, in my opinion, based on what you've told us, you DO NOT have the rights to the domain name unless it was specifically listed in the purchase agreement.

    As others have mentioned, you need a shark to sort this out for you but don't expect to walk away with the domain unless it was listed with the purchase. Good luck.
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    • Profile picture of the author BackLinkiT
      The domain is an asset of the business that should have passed to the Receiver along with the hotel itself when the company went into receivership.

      Assuming you purchased the business as a going concern then you should have purchased the whole business from the Receiver and the domain name ought to have been included.

      Go back to the lawyer who acted on the purchase and tell him or her to take it up with the Receiver. I would expect the Receiver to recover the domain from the bankrupt former owner.

      If the bankrupt former owner deliberately witheld the domain from the Receiver then he or she committed a criminal offence.

      On the other hand, if you purchased just the hotel then you are in a bit more difficulty. You may still be able to purchase the domain from the Receiver but first you need to get the Receiver to recover it from the bankrupt former owner.

      Either way, the Receiver must first recover the domain.

      I hope that makes sense.

      Good luck.
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      • Profile picture of the author robobobo
        Thanks very much for all your input guys, I'll be sure to pass it on to my clients so they can go about contacting the receiver and seeing that it was included in the contract. It is an asset of the business so I say it would have been.

        Thanks again
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    • Profile picture of the author Steve Wells
      Originally Posted by travlinguy View Post

      I'm not a lawyer but this isn't all that hard. When someone buys a piece of property whether it's residential or commercial there should be a part of the contract that lists everything that comes with the property.

      You're assuming that because the domain name and the hotel name are the same that you are entitled to the domain name. That's not necessarily true. I'd even go further and say, in my opinion, based on what you've told us, you DO NOT have the rights to the domain name unless it was specifically listed in the purchase agreement.

      As others have mentioned, you need a shark to sort this out for you but don't expect to walk away with the domain unless it was listed with the purchase. Good luck.
      I'm not a lawyer myself, but from what I understand;

      If the Hotel name is legally "trademarked", for example Marriott.com then the person who owns the trademarked name has legal rights to get anyone or anything with that name at least taken down. And can at least stop any other person from using anything with the legally trademarked name including any domain that had the legally trademarked name in it.

      Of course there would be legal action that has to be taken to get this done.

      Again, I am not a lawyer, this is just from what I have gathered by my own research. Which may not be 100% accurate. But trademark violations are serious things, if someone decides to pursue the infringing party legally.

      So, if the Hotel name is not trademarked yet, then the new owners next step is to legally trademark the name of the hotel, which could take quite awhile to get done from what I have studied, even up to at least a year.

      This would give them some leverage I would think...?

      Again no lawyer, and as everyone has said, find a lawyer, and pay them, it's worth the money to protect your hotel reputation if you think it may be in danger.....
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  • Profile picture of the author rosetrees
    I have a similar situation with a client who runs a pub. The old domain formed part of the sale, but the old owners have never handed it over.

    We decided it wasn't worth the hassle of arguing with them and set up a new site. The cost to your client of setting up a new site, linking to travel, B&B, accommodation etc sites to boost its rankings will be a lot cheaper than a lawyer.
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  • Profile picture of the author mmurtha
    Originally Posted by robobobo View Post


    So they're not willing to sell on the domain name to us, where do we stand from a legal point of view with this? Are we entitled to the domain name, firstly because it's part of the hotel business which he no longer owns. Secondly it's now falsely advertising that the hotel is closed and thirdly because the domain name is actually the name of the hotel?

    I'd appreciate any input you guys may have on this

    Thanks
    Rob -

    Legally? No, the website is not automatically the new owner's. The only way it becomes their property is if it was part of the original contract/sale or if the old owner decided to sell the domain in a separate deal to the new owner.

    There is a difference between physical property and virtual real estate - just because someone bought the physical property doesn't entitle them to the virtual.
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  • Profile picture of the author mikeink
    Go and get a lawyer to find out. A lot of the info stated above is (well) incorrect. To cover your backend do it the correct way.

    There are too many areas that are invloved in bankrupcy.
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    Been working for slave wages to long.

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  • Profile picture of the author Tsnyder
    Originally Posted by robobobo View Post

    Hey guys,

    Basically here's the story, a client of mine has taken over a hotel that went into receivership and they're relaunching soon. I've been designing a new website for them but the previous owner has still got the old website live and has posted on it that the hotel is closed for business and is not expected to re open again.

    We've spoken with the previous owner who has no interest in selling on the domain name to us and has actually threatened to try mess with the new site (obviously by posting false information on the old hotel website)

    So they're not willing to sell on the domain name to us, where do we stand from a legal point of view with this? Are we entitled to the domain name, firstly because it's part of the hotel business which he no longer owns. Secondly it's now falsely advertising that the hotel is closed and thirdly because the domain name is actually the name of the hotel?

    I'd appreciate any input you guys may have on this

    Thanks
    This isn't your problem. I can't imagine any serious businessperson would buy
    this kind of property then leave important issues like this for the guy who works
    on the website to ask about on an internet forum.

    Be serious everyone... the owner/investor has legal counsel...guaranteed.

    Let's all just stand back and let them handle it. Stop trying to look like
    an expert on things you don't have enough facts to know the answer even
    if you were.
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    • Profile picture of the author Bill Farnham
      Originally Posted by Tsnyder View Post

      This isn't your problem. I can't imagine any serious businessperson would buy this kind of property then leave important issues like this for the guy who works on the website to ask about on an internet forum.
      So true.

      As a side note, we sold a brick and mortar business years ago that we had for 15 years. The guy who bought it didn't see the value in the website which carried the name of the business.

      We waited one year to legally expire any rights to any real or fictitious verbal agreements regarding opening up a business using the website and name, and this time built a business exclusively on the internet using the domain name.

      When the person who bought the business discovered the value of the domain name he called me up and threatened to sue me for $25,000.

      I had a lawyer explain the facts of life to him and tell him to go pound sand.

      Never heard from the guy again...

      Here's the point...

      That's my story, and the outcome may or may not apply to any other situation even if I thought it sounded similar.

      ~Bill
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