Apple has won the rights to the www.itunes.co.uk domain name despite it being registered by a UK company even before Apple launched the music download service.

In a result that is likely to send shivers down the spines of any company based on the web, the domain which was registered four years before the launch of the UK music download store by Benjamin Cohen, the chief executive of CyberBritain Holdings has to be given back to Apple.

Cohen originally offered to sell the site in October last year to Napster but the offer was declined. In turn Apple then offered him US$5,000 for it but he declined requesting US$50,000.

Nominet, the UK internet registry, thought differently and found that Mr Cohen had made an "abusive registration" and ruled that the domain name should be transferred to Apple.

Mr Cohen claims he was unaware that Apple Computer had applied for a trademark for the name "iTunes" on October 27, 2000. Mr Cohen registered the domain name on November 7 that year.