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Lawscot domain dispute gets to court

And promptly leaves again

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The ongoing legal battle over domain lawscot.co.uk between the Law Society of Scotland and Glasgow resident Tommy Butler finally ended up in court at the start of the month - and promptly came back out again.

Before the opening arguments were even made, Mr Butler was left without his lawyers and forced to consider representing himself. However, he asked for the case to be postponed.

It duly was - until Wednesday 19 March - at which point Mr Butler intends to persuade Glasgow Sheriff's Court himself that he has the legal right to retain the lawscot domain.

The delay is just the latest in a string of controversies over the case. Mr Butler continues to insist that he cannot get a fair trial in Scotland because all lawyers would be members of the organisation suing him.

After a public plea in July 2002 when the Law Society served him and UK register Nominet with injunctions stopping the use of the domain, he found one set of lawyers willing to represent him but later fired them after he alleged they failed to contact people important to his case. A letter from the Law Society to his lawyers insisting they not talk about the case in public also gave him cause for concern.

In October 2002, he contacted more than 100 Scottish lawyers who all refused to take his case on before eventually hiring an English lawyer and domain expert. The English lawyer then hired a Scottish law firm to act as agents in Scotland.

This complicated relationship led to the Law Society making several out-of-court offers for the domain but ultimately fell apart on the Friday before the case was due in court when Mr Butler insisted on point of principle that he would defend his case. True to Mr Butler's fears, it now looks as though he will have no choice to defend himself against the foremost legal eagles in Scotland.

In his favour is the fact that he has a very good case for keeping hold of the domain. The Law Society's arguments have been undermined by their refusal to follow the usual system of domain arbitration and by domain case law.

However, the Society is desperate to win not only for the sake of its reputation but because Mr Butler would have an extremely strong case for compensation were he to be declared the legal owner of the domain.

The Law Society claims Mr Butler is "passing off" on its good name by owning the domain lawscot.co.uk, wrongly receiving confidential information in emails intended for the society, and infringing its trademark.

Mr Butler argues that "lawscot" is a generic name and reflects his intentions for the site - namely a directory of Scottish law firms. Emails wrongly received by Mr Butler were in many cases down to the Law Society's own error in publishing the wrong email address on both its website and in its literature.

And the trademark that the Law Society now possesses was applied for in September 2001, and registered in March 2002 - long after Mr Butler had bought the domain in November 1999 and also after the Law Society had offered to buy the domain from Mr Butler.

Mr Butler is determined to win the case, telling us "they are not getting it out of principle. It's a pain in the back of my neck but they're still not getting it." ®

Related articles
Lawscot.co.uk domain dispute continues (14 Oct 2002)
Court freezes lawscot.co.uk, owner claims unfair trial (2 July 2002)

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