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The Boots Company - parent of high street retailer Boots The Chemist - is in the middle of a messy custody battle over who owns the domain Boots.com.

Last week the Nottingham-based retailer seized control of boots.com after purchasing it "for a modest sum" from the Crown. The Boots Company believed the domain was "for sale" after the company that originally owned it went into liquidation in 1995.

But according to Bedfordshire-based Boots Systems - a business-based Internet Service Provider (ISP) - it owns the domain and has done so since it purchased it from the company that went into liquidation.

The result of this tussle is that last week some 2,000 businesses - including banks and a host of blue chip companies - lost their Web sites hosted by Boots Systems.

As many as 20,000 email addresses also evaporated.

Boots Systems has managed to wrestle back the domain - for the time being - but is currently locked in a legal fight with the giant retailer.

No one at Boots Systems was prepared to comment on since the matter is currently subject to a legal challenge.

However, a spokesman for The Boots Company told The Register: "We've been interested in acquiring the name boots.com for some time.

"According to our research ownership of boots.com belonged to a company that went into liquidation in 1995.

"The remaining assets have become the property of the Crown and we bought the name for a modest sum.

"As far as we're concerned the ownership issue has been resolved by the Crown and [domain name registrars] Verisign," he said. ®

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