This is an extract from the Pitman Case detailing the Vice-Chancellor's understanding of the process of registering a domain name prior to Nominet UK's appearance on the scene. The full judgement is published on Nominet web site here

In the High Court of Justice Reference:CH 1997 P 1984
Chancery Division
Royal Courts of Justice
Thursday, 22nd May, 1997


The Vice-Chancellor (Sir Richard Scott)

Initially the Internet was only used by academics and UKERNA gave domain names to universities and to other academic bodies. From about 1992, however, the Internet began to be used commercially and the business transacted on the Internet began to increase dramatically. Arrangements became necessary to deal, inter alia, with the allocation of domain names to companies and individuals desirous of using the Internet. In September 1985 a committee, the U.K. Naming Committee, was formed as an off-shoot of UKERNA to administer the U.K. domain. The Naming Committee consisted of United Kingdom Internet Service Providers. A Service Provider is a company whose business it is to arrange access to the Internet for its customers. A charge is naturally made for this service. The Service Provider can provide the customer with the facilities the customer needs in order to get connected to the Internet. It can obtain for the customer a domain name and e-mail facilities and set up a web site for the customer.

There are two Service Provides who figure in this case. -- CLIPPED Not Relevant -- technical director.

The U.K. Naming Committee, at its inaugral meeting on 30th September 1995, agreed on rules to be followed in dealing with applications for domain names. It may seem a matter of some surprise that it had operated from 1985 to 1995 apparently without rules. Be that as it may, in September 1995 it decided to have rules.

One of the rules was that if more than one application for the same domain name should be received a first come/first served rule would be applied. On 1st August 1996 a company, Nominet U.K., which is the first Defendant in this action, took over from the U.K. Naming Committee the responsibility for allocating U.K. domain names. Nominet is a company limited, as I understand it, by guarantee. I am not clear whether it purports to be a profit making company.

Prior to 1st August 1996 the procedure for obtaining a particular domain name required an application to be made by a Service Provider. The application would be made by e-mail. It would be an application for registration in the name of the client of the chosen domain name. There then had to be a wait for a set number of days, originally as I understand it five, but later reduced to three, before an application for delegation of the domain name could be made.

Finally, at the end of the fixed period, whether five or three days, and provided no objections had been raised by any of the other Service Providers, a second e-mail was sent by the applicant requesting the delegation to its client of the chosen domain name.

When on 1st August 1996 Nominet U.K. took over the allocation of domain names from the Naming Committee the first come/first served rule was maintained. Nominet adopted a rule that 'where two applications are for the same name then the one which is received first shall have prior claim.'