If someone has registered a name that you think is important to your brand, the first thing you need to do is stop and ask yourself …. is this a ‘nice to have’ or a ‘business critical domain’. The next thing you need to assess is what are they doing with the domain and is it harming your business.
Recovery is not cheap and at any one time there is probably someone somewhere in the world that has a domain that is close or identical to your own. It is impossible to ‘prevent’ breaches of your brand, as whilst it is the responsibility of the registrant to do due diligence prior to registration, most don’t research prior IP rights. Add a word, make a plural, create a mis-spelling, the variants are endless..
If it is a domain that is confusingly similar to your own and there is an actual risk (or potential risk) then you have two options – acquisition (private purchase) or dispute (legal case).
Domain Name Acquisition.
Most companies choose a third party to act on their behalf. This offers them the opportunity of ‘discrete’ negotiation. Domains in the private market are only worth what someone is willing to pay (or sell) them for. If a registrant knows a larger company is after their domain name, the price tends to start higher. If you choose to negotiate a private sale (or if you are selling your domain) please make sure you use a controlled money/domain transfer process. I get calls from large brands that have paid for domains and never got them…
Domain Name Dispute (MAPS – Mandatory Administrative Procedures).
Given that domain reallocation procedures can be time consuming and costly, Registrars have nominated specific bodies to settle disputes out of court. WIPO is perhaps the most well known of these and operates on behalf on a number of domain extensions.
To take action (MAPS) against a third party that has bought a domain name that you believe is in breach of your identity you normally need to satisfy 3 criteria (depends on extension);
A) Name is identical or confusing to a trade or service mark
B) The registrant has no claim to the name
C) The name is being used in bad faith
I’d love to go in more detail and in future posts I’ll cover some of the most common extensions in more detail, if you need assistance in the interim you can email firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll come back to you.