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Monday, 14 May, 2001, 16:21 GMT 17:21 UK
Taking a domain in vain
Leo Blair PA
Like little Leo Blair: Cybersquatted before he could walk
By BBC News Online technology correspondent Mark Ward

As British Telecom prepares to split itself up to help reduce its mountain of debt, it will have to choose the names for its new divisions very carefully.

Already net smart individuals are snapping up the domain names that might be used to name future spin-offs from the company.

Those owning some of the new names say they will be happy to hand them over if BT asks but until it does they are happy to use them to get a little extra publicity.

But BT says it has yet to pick the exact names for its future divisions and the names being used at the moment are no more than working titles.

Owner occupier

Earlier this month, BT announced plans to tackle its 30bn debt mountain with a rights issue to raise cash and the potential decoupling of its mobile phone business from the parent company.

The move would split BT into two entities, which have tentatively been called BT Wireless and Future BT. Unfortunately any plans BT had to christen the two divisions with these names could hit problems because BT does not own the corresponding net domains.

Some combinations of the names mentioned in the press about BT have long been used by other companies. The domain btwireless.com has been owned by Business Tel of San Jose for some time, but it is not using the site to display any information about itself. Similarly, a Korean by the name of Yun Jong-chel has owned the futurebt.com domain since last year.

BT beaten

But some enterprising individuals have beaten BT to register some of the domain variations of the names BT might have been thinking about choosing.

The domains btwireless.co.uk, bt-wireless.co.uk, future-bt.com, futurebt.co.uk and future-bt.co.uk have all been snapped up since BT's plans were made public.

Three of the variations have been bought up by one individual, Matthew Hatton, of Blackwire Technologies, who says he did it to gain exposure for his small web design business.

Anyone visiting the sites is redirected to the Blackwire site. "It gives me publicity and that's fantastic," says Mr Hatton.

"BT has done this twice now," he says, "once when it announced BT Net Co and now this." Mr Hatton also owns many of the domain variations for the Net Co name.

"It's not the thing you do today," says Mr Hatton, "announce you are going to change your business name and then look for the domain to go with it."

But a spokeswoman for BT says the names of the new divisions have yet to be chosen. "The names BT Wireless and Future BT are not their trading names," she said. "They are just being used to denote them for the time being."

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See also:

05 Apr 01 | Americas
Sex site squatter fined $65m
21 Jul 00 | Americas
Stopping the cybersquatters
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Cyber-squatting fears grow
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