Tuesday 29 May 2012

Pretendy government at GovNet.co.uk

Back in September 2009 Witterings from Witney looked at a  body called GovNet Communications which paid various nabobs to be on their 'board'.   There's nothing unusual in this; sometimes the board member makes a useful contribution by way of consultancy, other times they are hired for their contacts or air of respectability and glamour.

Now WfW has received letter from solicitors Turner Parkinson LLP crossly stating that their client is not at all happy with the post. 

GovNet Communiations is a trading style of Partnership Media Group Limited no. 3307092

While the domain name govnet.co.uk is  allowable, the unwary will easily confuse it with gov.uk, and thereby be encouraged to mis-read the website as a government organ, especially with a board studded with lords who used to be ministers and an existing MP. The current key government website is direct.gov.uk but gov.uk is the beta site which may replace it.

It is a hazard of the domain name system that very similar names can be generated but owned by different people. Nominet will resolve disputes of this sort without going to court. Based on a quick reading of the nominet archive, Nominet asks users to make sure that websites are sufficiently different so as not to mislead people and takes in to account whether other intellectual property protections - such as trademarks - exist.  An intellectual property lawyer would have to advise as to whether the government has taken out any protections which would make the domain name 'govnet.co.uk' one they could complain about.

GovNet is proud of its speakers and essentially, sells influence 
Understanding ModernGov draws together a range of senior Government contacts, bringing you the very best speakers and trainers with the most relevant knowledge.
They also have another product called Understanding ModernGov copied on both the moderngov.net and moderngov.com registrations.  Nothing wrong with that, but the unwary might think they are part of the government.  Wording on the website fosters that impression.  For example:
Understanding ModernGov provide a portfolio of highly informative, interactive Government training courses that clearly and concisely explain the mechanisms of government and parliament.
But they aren't 'Government training courses' in the sense of being produced by the government, They are a set of talks about the government which you can pay to listen to. In some cases, from people who you've already paid once to do their job, and who are now selling their arses - or more likely, ours - to the highest bidder.

As the GovNet domain tells us:
Each course is CPD Certified, providing an in-depth perspective of the mechanisms that drive central, regional and local government.
They are certificated in as much as there is an established trade body, the CPD Certification Service, which acts as an umbrella for private training providers.

Membership of the CPD Certification Service signifies the corporate commitment to the sharing of knowledge and enables members to have a wide range of material independently certified by us and to utilise our certified CPD symbol on items promoting their CPD material and on Certificates of Attendance and CPD Self-Assessment Forms.

You must put what weight on this you think fit.  Some trade bodies are stronger than others. In general, the older established ones have acquired legal protections linked with the obligation to enforce minimum standards and the mechanism to do it, and their stamp carries weight, especially if they can exclude other people from using identifying words in that trade, e.g. The Law Society.   However you should never assume a body has any legal authority until you've checked.

Here for example, is an Intellectual Property course, which originates in a specialist body with legal standing and is delivered by recognized training bodies, which is definitely worth the money.  That's the sort of thing to look for when buying training. 

The existence of Partnership Media Group Limited is on the govnet.co.uk and moderngov.info websites but it is gently down-played, directing the attention to the Government Procurement Service logo with "supplier" written under it in tiny letters, misleading the glancing eye as to who is providing the material.
  we are the UK's leading Public Sector publisher and events organiser.
Well, yes, that may be strictly true in the sense of publishing material about the public sector, by it isn't a "Public Sector" publisher and events organizer.

The names, images and logos identifying the GovNet News and Events portal and Search the Public Sector (STePS™) , are proprietary marks of the Partnership Media Group Limited trading as GovNet Communications. Copying of our logos and/or any other third party logos accessed via this website is not permitted without prior approval from the relevant copyright owner.
Did they bother asking the UK government if it minded someone taking a domain name so very close to their own?


Dick the Prick said...

Must be a bit worrying for the chap but the comments are a dream. It stinks all over but I kinda get the impression they'll quite happily burn cash on a vendetta. Reading it, he didn't do a thing but even though it makes great reading i'd kinda wimp out and delete a few comments. Err... is the principle worth more than the fight? Scary shit Mrs WoaR, kitchen blogger rumbles a heist and...

Woman on a Raft said...

If clients didn't want to burn money on vendettas, how would lawyers feed their children?

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Anonymous said...

Lol didn't read all of this but one thing I will say is whilst GovNet may be misleading and sometimes deceitful in their selling style non of the public sector speakers get paid to speak at these events, they usually come to further an agenda or cause within their own department and treat the event as a platform for PR.

Any private sector speakers usually pay to speak/provide seminars so again not sure where you got your information from. (I used to work for them hence how I know)

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