FSA loses latest round in domain name dispute

An independent expert appointed by Nominet says the .uk registry should leave the fsa.co.uk domain name in the hands of a small seaside company
Written by Wendy McAuliffe, Contributor

A small Bournemouth IT company has emerged victorious in the latest round of an ongoing dispute with the Financial Services Authority (FSA) for control of the www.fsa.co.uk domain name.

The .uk domain name registry Nominet has been advised to overturn its decision to suspend the fsa.co.uk Internet name. An independent expert appointed by Nominet to investigate the matter has suggested in a written recommendation that the registry should leave the domain name in the hands of family-run business Findlay Steele Associates.

In a written recommendation submitted to Nominet, the expert -- who is not named -- said the Bournemouth-based company has "demonstrated a willingness to seek to ensure minimisation of likelihood of confusion," and so should maintain control of the domain name.

"In the circumstance I do encourage Nominet to review its decision with a view to revoking its currently formulated decision, thereafter with a view to replacing it with a decision in similar terms but with an extended period of opportunity for negotiation," the expert concluded.

Findlay Steele Associates, a provider of software engineering services, registered the .uk domain name in good faith in April 1997. "[We] decided to register the UK domain name which best suited our corporate image. Naturally, that is fsa.co.uk," said Elaine Findlay, managing director of the company. "We have now been dragged through Nominet's dispute resolution service by a quango."

Nominet introduced a new speedy service for resolving domain name disputes last week, which requires all complainants to provide evidence that the domain name was registered or has been used in a manner that has been detrimental to their company. But the fsa.co.uk dispute is being conducted according to the July 1997 edition of the Nominet rules, which states that ownership of a domain name may be transferred "if it is drawn to Nominet UK's attention that the name is being used in a manner likely to cause confusion to Internet users."

The FSA thinks it likely that Nominet will accept the recommendation, but is concerned that the national registry is not properly considering the security implication of leaving the fsa.co.uk domain name in the hands of Findlay Steele Associates. "There is still the risk of confidential documents going to this site wrongly," said a spokesman at the FSA. "It's not only theoretical that this confusion can happen -- we have some concrete cases of security breaches that demonstrate the real risk."

But the recommendation to Nominet explains that Findlay Steele Associates has voluntarily changed its email traffic system, to screen out and return emails intended for the FSA. The expert also points out that the Web site contains a direct link to the FSA homepage, which reinforces the disassociation between the two sites.

"We have seen the ruling, and will consider how the matter might be taken forward," said a spokesman at the FSA. "We have been in discussion with lawyers, and are not ruling out any possible future action."

The FSA confirmed that it has offered Findlay a sum of money for the domain name -- a report in The Guardian suggests that this figure has now risen to five figures.

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