Big-brand companies, including BA, should prepare to reach into their wallets after UK registry Nominet announced that it will finally put on sale a clutch of catchy one and two-letter domains that were previously marked as off limits.

More than 2,800 very short UK domain names are to be auctioned for the first time, starting midday on 1 December until 17 January 2011. The domains will be opened for registered trademark holders to claim any they believe relate directly to their businesses. Trademarks have to have been in force before 1 January 2008.

Once trademark verification has been carried out, and trademark holders post-2008 have been dealt with, disputed domains will auctioned to the highest bidder. Unclaimed domains will then go forward to what Nominet describes as the open ‘landrush’ phase, which is to say anyone will be able to bid for one.

The full PDF of these domains can be found on the Nominet website, and includes obvious trademark examples such as ‘’, ‘’ and even ‘’. There are also intriguing single-letter domains such as ‘’, ‘’, ‘’ and number domains such as ‘’,’, and so on.

Somebody, somewhere must want them.

Although domain fees will go to registry companies (i.e those companies through which domains are bought by companies or individuals), Nominet itself does stand to gain handsomely from this process.

For registered users, IP verification for a single domain has been set at £37 (plus VAT), or £10 (plus VAT) per domain thereafter, regardless of success. Unregistered rights holders will pay £47 (plus VAT) per domain and £10 (plus VAT) for every extra domain.

Where two or more verified trademarked companies have a claim to the same domain, these will be auctioned to the highest bidder. Proceeds of that sale will go to the Nominet Trust, an independent charity “focussed on increasing access, safety and education on Internet issues.”

“There can be many trademarks, but only one domain name.  So we’re expecting these new domains will be hotly contested by individuals, companies and major brands,” said Nick Wenban-Smith, Senior Legal Counsel at Nominet. “This release is an opportunity for savvy rights owners to get hold of valuable domain names,” he added.

It is not clear that many companies necessarily want these domain names. Some might, some might not, many seeing it a necessary expense in defending trademarks and little more. In any case, as with every widening of the domain names available, big brands will have no choice. Pay up or find relevant domain names being appropriated.