Someone has just texted me and advised to check out the news of this mypolice.org (David) v. mypolice.org.uk (Goliath) Net and domain name clash standoff.
Having given the BBC News article a quick once over I would advise the ‘David’ mypolice.org.uk camp to be very careful and not to be complacent with regard to assurances they receive from HMIC and to make it quite clear that they reserve all their rights.
But before I explain why I advise caution, let’s quickly look at the facts of this issue.
The David and Goliath camps…
Mypolice.org (The David camp) was according to reports was set up in mid 2009 by Lauren Currie and Sarah Drummond “for the purpose of providing feedback to local police forces throughout England and Wales”.
Essentially to let the Police know how they are doing and perhaps where they may improve. An excellent idea I am sure everyone will agree.
The domain name was registered on 20th June 2009. The legal registrant is listed as “Brett Sheffield”.
Mypolice.org.uk (The Goliath camp) registered its domain on the 10th February 2010 for the purpose it states of “informing members of the public to find out information about how their local force is performing”.
“Confusingly similar” is the term often used in domain dispute litigation. Also what comes to mind is, “passing off” where it could be reasonably argued the HMIC site was trying to trade on the name of Lauren and Sarah’s incipient police feedback web project and hitch a ride on their shirt tails.
BBC News website reports “However, the HMIC spokesman said: “We spoke with the owners of www.mypolice.org, and it is clear that we offer very different online products””.
Both however aim to improve engagement between the public and their police; and this is to be applauded.”
Applause aside though, the said “Spokesman’s” assertion that “it is clear they offer different online products” is at odds with not only the domain names which are precisely identical but also the purpose which said spokesperson admits are both about “improvement engagement”.
Its seems there is not really much left to be different.
Well excuse me for being cynical but…
Now here is what I think is highly likely.
Eagle eyed and internet savvy as well as social media amplified Sarah Drummond and Lauren Currie shrewdly notice there is a information niche as regards Police – community engagement the tired olde HMIC who were napping had not noticed or thought of.
So, said, Sarah and Lauren, nimble, lean and mean. put things into motion and start to make a noise about their project that begins to be heard within Policing circles.
They register a domain name (not as many as they ought to have done admittedly) and soon not before too long Her Maj’s Inspectorate of Constabulary wakes up from napping and gets to hear about this project.
Realising a march has been stolen on the HMIC as well as, that if this projects gets established it could become a proverbial loose cannon rolling about the deck, a thorn in the side that is not quite as much in HMIC control as they would prefer.
So they hatch an ill advised and ill conceived plot to muddy the waters and dilute the branding and publicity of said project by having their own “MYPOLICE” project. Dividing and conquering on the all important footfall and SEO stakes.
And who knows perhaps strike up a reverse domain name hijacking attempt in a few years time in the guise of a legal case on spurious claims in that MyPolice.org is misrepresenting, passing off and acting in bad faith.
True or not, the HMIC manoeuvre constrains Sarah and Laurens project now from developing into a reporting venue based on its feedback which as it happens is the most potent and powerful product of the .ORG project. If the David camp want to produce reports based on the feedback it obtains from communities, the HMIC can go to Nominet and WIPO crying foul.
Strengthening their hands… not putting foot in it…
There are things that the people behind mypolice.org should be doing right now that would strengthen their hand if this ever becomes a full blown legal dispute and domain name dispute battle. Conversely, there are also things they certainly, ought not to be doing that might be playing into the hands of ‘Goliath’ if such a case arises. And I would suggest that such a case may become increasingly inevitable as time goes on as the HMIC (Goliath) realises his branding error and predicament.
This whole predicament that the Goliath camp (HMIC) and the David Camp find themselves in underscores the need for everyone, especially large organisations that ought to own extensive domain name portfolio’s is to take domain names seriously and not to be blasé and casual about their acquisition. They ought to retain specialist domain name consultants with experience in domain name dispute litigation and managing large collections of internet names.
It’s quite understandable that Lauren and Sarah registered only mypolice.org as they were not to know better. But a good IT Consultants would have advised them to acquire all the variations of MyPolice that were available having carried out due diligence on the domain name first of course.
And MyPolice.org.uk was available to Lauren and Sarah as recently as up until 10th February 2010 when it was registered by John Worth Media Ltd (oddly in the registrant name of “Sudeep Menon”). ( It appears the HMIC are not the legal owners of their own domain name, something they ought to be concerned about.)
HMIC ought to have known better…
But HMIC who registered mypolice.org.uk (lower level and not as prestigious as Sarah and Lauren’s .org domain name) should quite frankly have known better and not have been caught napping on this. They should have registered all the possible names pertinent to their function, purpose and operations many years ago and set them aside in reserve for future use. They ought to have staked their claim. MyPolice should have been conceived as potentially useful and for what little it costs ought to have taken it off the field of play.
This article is in progress… check back later for more…
Points coming up are:
- That the publicity over this is a windfall for Sarah and Lauren and they need to be reaping and harvesting contacts for future use.
- Advice for Sarah and Lauren that I can’t publish readily as HMIC could head them off at the pass so to speak.
- That Sarah and Lauren need to reserve all their rights
- The weakness of the “balance of probability” test in Nominets DRS proceedings and the impact this might have on this case.
- Being in the face of HMIC digitally at every turn.