The Montreal Gazette is reporting an interesting and serious domain name dispute over SPCA.COM. Apparently, the former director of Montreal’s local SPCA registered SPCA.COM back in 1996, and the Washington D.C. HQ of the international SPCA has been using the domain name since. Now, according to the story, the local Montreal SPCA is apparently arguing in court within the context of seeking an injunction, that the former director registered the domain name on its behalf, or at least that it rightfuly belongs to the Montreal SPCA. What makes this serious is that the domain apparently gets something like 30 million hits a year. I will be following this story.

As a domain name lawyer, I hear similiar stories about this kind of domain name dispute all the time. Usually its a web site owner having a problem with their former web designer who registered the domain name on its behalf, or a former employee or former partner having done the same. Usually its a huge problem for the site owner because of the expense of going to court. Obviously in this situation the value of the domain name, its importance, and the huge traffic, are more than enough to get the parties to go to court. Sometimes however, the registrant may acvually have good rights to the domain name as he or she registered it and “licensed” its use to the site owner, or didnt receive the promised or agreed compensation. We shall see how this case turns out. Either way, this case represents an important milestone in Canadian domain name law, as it is one of the first cases of parties going to court over a domain name ownership dispute.