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BAA.com domain battle settled out of court

The sheep-loving former owner couldn't afford the legal fees

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The legal battle over the ownership of www.baa.com has been settled out of court after its owner, Tom Bourke, was no longer able to afford the heavy legal fees.

Software consultant Tom decided to make a stand against corporate bullying by refusing to give into the British Airports Authority - better known as BAA - which is the world's biggest commercial operator of airports. Not that he didn't have discussions with it to reach some kind of agreement, but they broke down and a writ arrived soon after.

BAA claimed Tom was "passing off" himself as BAA - which is franking ludicrous as the site features little more than sheep and details of the battle - and that it was losing revenue because it didn't have the domain.

And so to court. But after months and months of legal shenanigans, Tom's legal costs had hit £50,000 and he was advised it would cost another £50,000 before it was over (lawyers' letter writing skills don't come cheap). Unsurprisingly, he decided enough was enough and settled.

We called Tom up to get the details but he's been gagged by one of those bloomin' confidentiality agreements and so couldn't discuss the details. In all though, he is "relieved" the whole thing's over - and before Christmas. He can't discuss the size of the agreement but it's fair to assume that it covered his legal costs. The details aren't completely decided but Tom admitted that is was "more or less a done deal". BAA confirmed the deal but won't discuss matters any further. No surprise there then.

Tom also confirmed that he will retain control of www.baa.net. Asked whether he was worried that BAA would turn around and demand control of that one once the .com site is sorted, he informed us he couldn't discuss it under the terms of the confidentiality agreement. So it looks like there was some kinda trade-off deal.

BAA costs, incidentally, are expected to be around two to three times Tom's, so the company could be looking at a £200,000 bill for control of the domain. It is this that made Tom's stance worthwhile - maybe companies will be a little less heavy-handed and a touch more reasonable when it comes to disputes in the future.

Also, we believe we're right in saying BAA got a court order which it issued to Network Solutions to block any signing over of the domain to anyone else. It will now have to go and get another court order to rescind that court order. Funny old world. ®

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