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Though apparently not illegal, Antiquedesks.net’s use of www.burrellsantiquedesks.co.uk and www.burrellsantiquedesks.net does appear to fall foul of the rules set out by Nominet, the internet registry for UK domain names.

The matter came to light when Gavin and Kathi Burrell of Burrells Antique Desks, who use web address www.burrellsantiquedesks.com, decided to register other versions of the domain name last month.

“We discovered that Mr Steve Campbell of Coburn Antiques, trading under www.antiquedesks.net, had purchased this domain name and www.burrellsantiquedesks.net on March 14, 2008.”

The Burrells, who told ATG that they had done business with Mr Campbell in the past, confronted him, asking him why he wanted to buy the domain names.

“The short conversation that took place made it abundantly clear that he had taken these names in order to prevent us from using them and to benefit from internet searches for our business,” said the Burrells.

The Burrells have made a complaint to Nominet, which has yet to be resolved, but paragraph 3 of Nominet’s Dispute Resolution Service policy, dealing with what they term Abusive Registration, states that such abuse may have taken place if a domain name has been acquired “as a blocking registration against a name or mark in which the Complainant has Rights; or for the purpose of unfairly disrupting the business of the Complainant”.

Abuse may also have taken place if circumstances indicate “that the Respondent is using or threatening to use the Domain Name in a way which has confused or is likely to confuse people or businesses into believing that the Domain Name is registered to, operated or authorised by, or otherwise connected with the Complainant”.

Nominet also state that further evidence of abuse can be shown if the individual complained of “is engaged in a pattern of registrations where [they are] the registrant of domain names (under .uk or otherwise) …in which [they have] no apparent rights, and the Domain Name is part of that pattern”.

ATG have made several attempts to contact Mr Campbell for comment but had not heard back from him by the time of going to press.

But the Burrells are as keen to alert other dealers to this potential problem as they are to resolve their own issue.

“It’s a lesson to register all the main versions of your business’s domain name as soon as possible,” said Kathi Burrell.