Domain event: Website names sometimes betray firms’ plans – but sometimes not

What’s in a domain name? Everything or nothing, it seems.

The merger between DWF and Cobbetts first came to light when the domain name dwfcobbetts. was registered. DWF, which registered the name, insisted that the blip was the result of an over-zealous IT employee. But just over two months later the duo confirmed they were in tie-up talks (, 18 January 2012).

Websites enabling so-called Whois queries, such as and whois., make it fairly easy to track down who has registered what. Note was taken, for example, when News International registered and two days before it announced it was closing the News of the World – fuelling rumours that the organisation was set to launch a replacement paper.

Norton Rose, a firm linked constantly with a transatlantic merger, registered in 2007 and updated it last November. Ashurst registered in 2003, three years after gaining a PO box in New York, while records indicate that was registered but has since become available again. The going rate to buy up the web address is just under $10 per year.

This don’t really mean anything, though. When The Lawyer put the issue to Norton Rose CEO Peter Martyr in November, he said the firm registers its name in every big country so no one else tries to use it.

Not a bad plan: Berwin Leighton Paisner has to use because is used by a Florida racing car engine parts maker.