The Birmingham-based Islamic Bank of Britain has won a battle to prevent its online banking web address being put up for auction.
The bank, which has its national headquarters in Edgbaston, was forced to turn to the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) to gain control of the domain name islamic-bank.com, where its main website is located and where customers can log on to check their accounts.
Islamic Bank of Britain’s website has been reached at the address since 2004, but the bank did not actually own the domain name – it was registered by a New Zealand company called Ifena Consulting which had supplied information technology services to the bank.
But Ifena recently told Islamic Bank of Britain (IBB) it wanted to auction the domain name off – a move which could have had had serious consequences for the bank’s online banking services, where it offers Shariah-compliant finance products to businesses and individuals.
WIPO, an agency of the United Nations, found in IBB’s favour after examining the situation to see who had the right to the name and whether Ifena was acting in bad faith.
Ifena Consulting, which didn’t offer any defence to WIPO during the dispute, has now had to hand the name over to the bank. In the early days of the internet, there was a lot of controversy surrounding people buying up domain names and holding companies and individuals to ransom.
But that has changed a lot over the last decade, thanks to the work of bodies like Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) and WIPO.
Sarah Webb, partner at Anthony Collins Solicitors, said: “Since 1997 and the judgement in the One in a Million case, there has generally been far less opportunistic registration of domain names and resultant litigation.
“Whilst this is partly due to clarification of the key principles through this ruling, seeking to prevent the abuse of brand owners’ reputation and goodwill, the evolution of policies set by ICANN and the Nominet dispute resolution procedure has no doubt also facilitated a prompt resolution and clear way forward in the majority of cases.”
Islamic Bank of Britain has been a key organisation in building Birmingham’s profile as a centre for Islamic finance.
As of the end of last year, the bank had deposits of £186.6 million and just under 50,000 customers.
But it is operating in the red – it last year reported losses of £9.5 million, increasing its losses from £5.9 million in 2008, a drop which it said was down to ongoing market conditions.
Alongside IBB being located here, Birmingham is also developing a strong academic offering in Islamic finance.
In January this year Aston Business School launched the Islamic Finance and Business Centre – the first of its kind in Europe.
The centre has been developed as a result of a £1.5 million grant from Dubai-based business Surgi-Tech. It will be used to develop qualifications and research in the Islamic finance field.
The international Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP) was set up to resolve disputes around the use of domain names. Complainants need to prove the following to be successful:
* that the domain name is identical or confusingly similar to a trademark or service mark which they have rights to;
* that the person who the domain name is registered by doesn’t have any rights or legitimate interests in the domain name;
* and that registrant is using it in “bad faith” – for example trying to sell it to somebody whose company owns a trademark on the name.