May 14, 2024
IP and digital due diligence: constructing a domain policy that Matches brand owner requirements
IP and digital due diligence: constructing a domain policy that Matches brand owner requirements

Following the placing of luxury e-commerce platform Matches[1] (formerly Matchesfashion) into administration by owners Frasers Group[2] in March 2024[3], Mike Ashley’s Frasers has at the end of April repurchased the company’s intellectual property (domain names, trademarks and store databases). They have not, however, purchased the £80 million worth of stock or 250 remaining employees[4].



Matches was established as a physical store in 1987, before expanding to an online e-commerce platform in 2007[5]. The company was acquired by Frasers for £52 million in 2023 from private equity firm Apax Partners[6],[7], who had purchased it around six years earlier for an estimated £400 million[8].

In this article, we take a look at the potential landscape of the Matches domain name portfolio and use it as a case study to consider some points related to a suitable registration and domain-management policy for the brand[9].



Given the generic nature of the ‘Matches’ brand name, it makes sense to consider in an initial landscape analysis only those domain names of greatest potential relevance. The first step is to focus on those where the brand name appears at the start of the domain name. As of the date of analysis (01-May-2024), 480 registered domains with names beginning with ‘matches’ were identified. Many of these are clearly not relevant, so we next filter the dataset to consider only those where the SLD (the second-level domain name, i.e. the portion to the left of the dot) consists only of the term ‘matches’, or where other relevant terms (i.e. those related to fashion, commerce, or other generic terms such as ‘online’ or other geographic terms) are present. This yields a dataset of 184 domain names of potential relevance.

The first point to note is that, given the generic nature of the brand, it is unlikely that the brand owner will want (or easily be able) to acquire all domains of the form matches.[TLD]. Indeed, the company’s primary website is, and even the brand-name-only .com (the most popular TLD) domain (i.e. is under the ownership of a third party (it currently re-directs to, displaying content relating to the sale of ‘premium domain names’).

The next point of significance is that Matches’ official primary website domain is actually registered via a proxy service (‘Domains By Proxy, LLC’) meaning that it is difficult to definitively verify which domains are under official ownership. However, there are 53 domains within the dataset which re-direct to – covering a small number of matches.[TLD] domains, a larger group of domains where the SLD is ‘matchesfashion’ or ‘matches-fashion’, and a small number of others (featuring additional keywords such as ‘store’, ‘site’ or ‘website’). Many of these are also registered via Domains By Proxy and seem likely to comprise (at least part of) the official domain portfolio. Some are explicitly registered with alternative contact details, and may be of concern (and warrant careful monitoring and potential enforcement) if not actually under the control of the brand owner. As a general recommendation, it might be appropriate for brand owners to consolidate all official registrations under a single (ideally enterprise-class) registrar, and standardise the contact details cited in the whois record (usually with official corporate information).



From amongst the remainder of the (probably third-party-owned) dataset domains in this sample landscape (53 of the form matches.[TLD] and another 78 featuring additional keywords), a number of relevant insights can be drawn:

  • The dataset includes several examples of additional domains with SLDs of ‘matchesfashion’ or ‘matches-fashion’, i.e. the brand owner’s apparent preferred domain-name format.
  • There are numerous domains comprising misspellings of ‘’.
  • There are several domains with names featuring variants of ‘matchesboutique’, ‘matchesonline’, ‘matchesworld’ and other relevant keywords.
  • Some domains (including several of the misspellings) resolve to pages featuring pay-per-click links, indicating an effort to take advantage of the brand name and monetise the content.
  • Some of the registrations are likely to pertain to legitimate third-party use of the ‘Matches’ name.

In addition, there are a small number of findings of greater concern:

  • Two of the misspellings ( and re-direct via affiliate-tracking URLs to the official site. Whilst this is most likely purely a revenue-generation scheme, there is potential for the domains to be used fraudulently, with the re-direction to the official site designed to provide the appearance of legitimacy.
  • Four of the sites resolve to a log-in page (Figure 1), presenting the potential for fraudulent use (e.g. phishing).
  • One domain resolves to a third-party site using the ‘Matches’ name in a similar industry area (Figure 2).


Figure 1: Screenshot of a log-in page displayed by four of the third-party domains in the dataset


Figure 2: Screenshot of a third-party site using the ‘Matches’ name in a similar industry area



Based on these findings, the following general recommendations regarding a domain registration and management portfolio may be appropriate:

  1. In cases where any of the third-party sites feature active infringements, it would be advisable to launch enforcement actions to deactivate the content, and/or consider a dispute procedure if the brand owner wishes to reclaim the domain for their own portfolio.
  2. If any of the other third-party-owned domains are required for the official portfolio, it may be appropriate to attempt to acquire them through purchase or dispute.
Outside the set of domains which are currently registered, it may make sense (depending on the balance between budget and risk, and on planned future business expansions) to attempt to purchase domains featuring relevant keyword patterns, across relevant TLDs, for inclusion in a core / tactical (i.e. defensive and strategic) portfolio. Some of the key domains of potential interest might include:
  1. Those featuring the brand name together (say, with and without hyphens) with relevant keywords, such as ‘fashion’, product keywords such as ‘designer’, ‘luxury’, ‘clothing’, etc., and potentially terms such as ‘shop’, ‘store’, ‘outlet’ etc. (particularly given the ‘Matches Outlet’ branding used on the official website), and/or other relevant generic or geographical keywords. Note that this may include domains where the brand name does not necessarily appear at the start.
  2. Domains across TLDs relating to the brand’s current or future planned geographical areas of business, or which relate specifically to the industry area or e-commerce generally (e.g. .fashion, .boutique, .luxury, .moda, .shop, .store, etc.)
  3. It may also be appropriate to register domains featuring other relevant terms, such as brand taglines.

The general principle is usually to achieve coverage across a wider range of TLDs for the higher-relevance keywords / SLDs (e.g. ‘matchesfashion’ in this case).

Beyond the construction of an official portfolio, it is generally advisable to monitor for the registration of relevant domains, and the potential appearance of infringing content, with a view to taking subsequent enforcement where appropriate. This might particularly be relevant for misspellings, where it would be unsustainable to attempt to defensively register all variants pre-emptively.



The re-purchase of the Matches IP portfolio, for a greater sum than the purchase of the whole company a year earlier, provides a striking illustration of the extent to which the value of a brand can be dominated by its intangible assets. However, the value and usefulness of a set of domain names is limited by the quality of any domain management policy which underlies it. Policies of this type are a key consideration for brand owners, incorporating insights from analysis of the pre-existing state of official and third-party registrations, and taking into account the balance between registration and renewal costs, and business requirements for core and tactical domains, covering brand variants, relevant keywords, and appropriate domain-name extensions (top-level domains, or TLDs).

Frasers’ last acquisition of the Matches brand was short-lived, and the brand has had multiple owners in two decades, potentially giving rise to different approaches and competing commercial interests, such as factors regarding the spend on IP versus commercial operations. Stability of the ownership and management of Matches may assist with the brand’s future IP portfolio rationalisation. After all, a carefully managed and properly executed policy can help brand owners maximise their value for money, control their IP, manage infringements and help to strengthen the brand overall.










Online Brand Enforcement /  Fashion /  Domains

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