Can I file a small claims suit for ownership of a domain name and, if not, is there an alternative that I can pursue?

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Can I file a small claims suit for ownership of a domain name and, if not, is there an alternative that I can pursue?

Because of a mistake made years ago, one of my Internet domain names is registered with a company named “Network Solutions” with them as the administrator. The name has no value to them but I cannot get them to release it to me. I’ve been trying for years. Numerous people at Network Solutions have promised to fix the problem but none have ever succeeded. I’m now convinced that Network Solutions will never release the domain name voluntarily and that some legal action is needed.

Asked on May 31, 2013 under Business Law, New Hampshire

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

First of all, even if you have a cause of action, you cannot file a small claims suit for the domain name: small claims courts do not have the authority to grant declaratory or injunctive relief (court orders directing someone to do something, or declaring who is the correct owner of an asset) and so cannot order the company to release the name to you. You would have to file an action in state county court or possibly federal district court, which is much more expensive.

Second, if you made a mistake but the company did not commit fraud or do something else illegal or improper, then you likely do not have a claim: if the company properly registered or acquired the name, your mistake does not invalidate their ownership.


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