Canadian Court Says Domain Name Registrant May Not be Its Owner

Domain names do not have owners.  A domain name is licensed for a term of years (up to ten years) by an ICANN approved domain name registrar to a person or entity who applies for and is approved by the registrar to be the domain name’s “registrant.”  The registrant is more like a tenant than an owner because the domain name is only licensed for a specific term and the registrar has ultimate control over the domain name.  The registrant controls the domain name as long as the registrant holds the license from the registrar.

An Ontario, Canada, Superior Court ruled in Inc. v. Inc., that the “owner” of a domain name was a person who was not the registrant of the domain name.  The court said:

“This motion for summary judgment is limited to the ownership of domain names belonging to the business.

The facts are no t in material dispute as regards this issue. Mr. Sullivan and Mr. Dalrymple were involved in establishing the plaintiffs in the business of mold inspection and removal services in the Greater Toronto Area. Mr. Dalrymple says these businesses were corporations that he alone capitalized. Mr. Sullivan characterizes the relationship as a partnership. This conflict need not be resolved for the purposes of this motion. The domain names were purchased by Sullivan, with Dalrymple’s money. They were purchased in Sullivan’s name without Notice to Dalrymple or his consent. When the business relationship fractured, Sullivan retained the web sites, which, when this was challenged, he had purportedly transferred to Mr. Romelus. Administrative proceedings challenging Mr. R omelus’ use of the domain names apparently foundered because Dalrymple could not show bad faith […]