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Matthew Mann
 
February 16, 2012 | Compliance, eCommerce , General | Matthew Mann

Expand Your Domain: Protecting your company from those who want to use, or abuse, your good name

Your Space
The word “domain” has several definitions depending upon the context of its use. The common thread is however, it represents a range of territory or scope of characteristics over which one maintains ownership. In the internet world, the space your company occupies is your domain, your cyberspace territory. It represents that space on the web you own where you can present your company message and products. Whatever you name this space is your domain name.

Most companies give their domain a name that represents what they do or identifies them to the public. The most obvious is to give the domain the same name as the company; WineDirect.com being a perfect example.  It says who we are and what we do. If the preferred name is unavailable, the company may invent variations using hyphens, abbreviations, similar terms or creative spellings. “Vin” is a common alternative to “Wine”, for example. Necessity is the mother of invention, after all.

In addition to the name selected, domain names consist of the top-level domain; familiar as suffixes such as .com, .gov, .org, .biz and so on. Between the variations in the name selected and the variety of top-level domains, a multitude of combinations of potential domain names is available, as well as many opportunities for others to exploit or trade upon it.

Threats to Your Space
So what happens when a company acquires its preferred name? Or even its second choice? Often they stop there. They feel comfortable they’ve secured their domain space on the web. They’ve got their own registered .com and no one else can use it. However, this sense of security is really an illusion. And it’s a mistake.

A recent presentation by David P. Branfman, Esq., "HOT Trademark & Copyright Issues For Non-IP Lawyers", discussed threats to domain names and the most expedient and inexpensive way to protect your space. He points out that with the explosion of the internet many companies spend significant dollars securing the rights to that one domain name they covet most, yet leave themselves vulnerable to “cybersquatters” who trade off their good name or worse, disparage it.

Mr. Branfman notes that if you own only the one domain name associated with your business you are leaving yourself exposed to other parties who acquire the rights to any or all of the domain name variations still available. A competitor could acquire a variation on the spelling of your name, or an alternative top-level domain with your exact name, creating confusion for your customers and potentially stealing away some of your business. Worse still, an unhappy customer, a disgruntled former employee or just someone with an axe to grind could snap up a similar name strictly for the purpose of attacking your reputation online. They could even create a “nasty” variation of your domain name for such purposes.

Defending Your Space
Branfman’s solution is easy and inexpensive. Domain name registrations are cheap, usually in the $10-$15 range per domain through a registration service. Once you’ve landed on a name you like, protect yourself by spending a little extra money by buying up the rights to the most common variations, including the possible “nasty” names that make you look bad or confuse your customer. Although you won’t be actively using these domain names, no one else will either. It’s inexpensive insurance against someone exploiting or sullying your good name and reputation. Expand, and thereby protect, your domain. It’s cheaper than a lawyer!

The information conveyed in this blog post is made available for general informational purposes only and none of the information provided should be considered to constitute legal advice.
 

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