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Choosing a domain name

Can I use any name?

You may use any combination of letters and numbers adjoined by hyphens in your domain name. You can use a maximum of 63 characters (including the suffix), though you should consider how easy it will be for your customers, clients, partners, staff or friends to remember. You will find that a lot of the most obvious (and desirable) domains are already taken, but you can be imaginative and find a creative and memorable alternative.

Can I get in trouble for intellectual property or copyright infringement?

Yes, you can, but these matters are usually solved quickly as long as you can prove that there is no attempt to mislead people into believing your site is affiliated with an established site, brand or company. If you happen to have a similar name to another business, but are not in competition with them, there is little likelihood of problems. If you try to "pass off" your company or brand by registering a name specifically to take business from someone else, you can expect to be caught out.

I can't get the domain to match my company name - what can I do?

There is a specially reserved domain type for registered companies and, if you have a limited company (Ltd) you can be quite sure that the domain name is available. This domain type was specifically created to put right the damage caused by insufficient control in the early days of domain registrations. The domain type was intended for businesses but no checks were made on the nature of the people who were registering. If you register a domain it must be made in the name of your company and the application will not be allowed until it has been checked against Companies House records. When you see a domain ending in you can be sure that it is a legally registered company.

For public limited companies a similar option exists, with the same rules and controls. The option in this case is

Is my domain registration unique?

Yes. Each type of domain registration suffix is controlled by a registration authority for the related area. For instance, domains ending in and .uk are controlled by the UK central registration authority (known as Nominet). These registration authorities only allow one name for each domain type.

Can domain names be similar to each other?

Yes. The same word might be used as a domain name in France (with a .fr suffix) and in the UK (with a suffix). And the same word may be registered as a .com or a .biz domain. Many brand-conscious companies cover themselves by registering their domains in several versions to make sure their competitors don't lock them out of possible future areas of trading.

Can I register any name I want, if it is available?

No. There are restrictions on the characters that may be used in a domain name. More particularly, if you register a domain name that can be proved to breach a registered trademark, you could be legally compelled to give it up (see above).