Your company domain name is one of your business’s most valuable assets. It makes it easy for your organization’s customers, prospects and business partners to find your website and business. It also sets you apart with a web address that is unique and proprietary to your company website.
Unfortunately, there is a growing problem of online brand abuse in the form of “cyber-squatted” domain names (using a domain name with ill intent to profit from a company’s trademarked name) and other threats that can cost businesses millions of dollars. Although a trademarked brand name does not guarantee a business exclusive rights to a similar domain name, no one should ever be allowed to use a domain name to impersonate or damage your brand. In addition, some individuals or companies may choose a domain name similar to yours to purposely make it harder for people to find your website and business.
How can you choose a domain name that is right for your company’s website and also protect that domain throughout the life of your site? Here are some things to consider.
Like your brand and business names, a domain name is one of your organization’s most important business assets and should be selected with careful thought and strategy. Make sure you are in agreement with your company leadership on the prospective domain name as this will have a direct effect on your organization and its website for years to come.
When choosing a domain name, take precautions to protect the best interests of your business. Once you find name possibilities in the domain database, you should work with legal counsel to conduct a proper trademark availability search and identify any competitors using similar names. This is important because you could be at risk for legal action if your domain name closely mirrors a copyrighted brand or business name. You should consider trademarking your domain name selections as well.
“The key to your brand-protection strategy is to consider the potential risks of having core brands used in domain names in ways that are damaging to those core brands and to the associated goodwill.” – John H. Rees, Corporate and Intellectual Property Lawyer, Writing for the American Bar Association
New generic top-level domains (gTLDs) like .biz., .gov and .edu make it possible for organizations to register domain names similar to your company’s web address. If your brand name is also your domain name (or similar), you should register your domain name as a trademark to protect it from competitors.
According to the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO): “Your domain name could function and qualify as a trademark if it is clearly and prominently displayed on your website (not just in you URL) in such a way that potential purchasers will perceive it as a symbol of origin in direct connection with the goods and services advertised.”
The USPTO also says: “It is very important to avoid using common, generic or descriptive terms in a domain name if you want to be able to benefit from trademark rights and control unwanted use by the competition.”
Look for an expert domain name registrar who has experience in this area to ensure your domain name is available and has the potential to be legally trademarked once you obtain it.
Cyber squatters may use variations of your trademarked brand name to intentionally mislead your customers and company partners. Similar versions of your domain name may also be used in phishing scams in which hackers pose as a representative of your company and send emails with a domain address similar to your business domain for fraudulent purposes. Unless you take precautions, your company’s private data may also be compromised during the domain registration process, giving hackers access to your business information.
As an IT professional, you have your hands full on a daily basis and don’t have time to constantly monitor the online landscape to detect fraudulent use of your company’s domain name. Thankfully, there are domain monitoring services available that will constantly search and detect any suspicious or fraudulent use of your domain or domain names similar to yours that could cause confusion.
Be sure to keep up with your domain renewals – you never want to be notified in the middle of the night that your company website is down and not working. Keep track of your domain expiration dates and consider investing in an auto renewal service. This resource automatically renews your domain subscription before it expires to help prevent the risk of website downtime.
Safeguarding your brand and domain name is an important part of keeping your company’s online presence operational and secure. When registering your domain name, obtain as many similar names as possible. This includes TLDs ending in .biz, .net and .org, plus domain names based on misspellings. To protect your domain and brand from being registered with a .adult, .porn, .sex and .xxx domain check out AdultBlock. This will also help to keep your competitors from registering similar domain names and creating unnecessary confusion. Subscribe to a domain name monitoring service that will find suspicious or negative domains (such as ‘yourbrandname.sucks’) and prevent them from being used against your company or damaging your brand.
Network Solutions can help you protect your brand and domain name. We offer Private Domain Registration that hides your personal information from spammers, telemarketers and bots. We provide expiration date warnings and enable you to go beyond auto-renew with Domain Expiration Protection, which protects you for a full year if you fail to renew. Additionally, we offer Domain Name System Security Extensions (DNSSEC), premium DNS and transfer lock. And we’ll alert you whenever someone tries to change the ownership info for your domain or attempts to move it to a different account or company.
If you want to move your domain to Network Solutions from another source, you can do so quickly and easily with our Domain Transfer services. As one of the original and most trusted domain name registrars, you can always trust us with your domain name and brand.
Your domain name and brand are valuable assets to your business and protecting them is a top priority. By partnering with a knowledgeable domain registrar like Network Solutions, you can help to ensure that your domain represents your company in a positive light for years to come.