Don't Let Cybersquatting Ruin Your Day

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We all know that domain names are prized pieces of digital real estate. And we're all aware that most dot com domain names are taken, either legitimately or poached by cybersqautters who hope to sell the domain for a profit.

A recent statement from WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organisation) highlights the ongoing problem:

In 2010, trademark holders filed 2,696 cybersquatting cases covering 4,370 domain names with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center.

Domain name availability is often central to decision making in the name creation process. However If you're developing a name for a product or an entire company, no matter how remarkable you think a name candidate is, the odds of the domain name being available are becoming increasingly low.

Often the owner (squatter) of the domain name you want is outside of your jurisdiction which makes legal avenues for pursuing ownership either costly or simply unachievable.

Having said that I'm still pleasantly surprised to develop names for clients that are available, if only for the ".com.au" suffix.

Needless to say I've become accustomed to being wary that no matter how abstract a name is, although a trademark could be obtained locally and sometimes internationally, there's a high probability the ".com" has been taken.

What To Do

If you're desired name is likely to be accepted as a registered trade mark, don't throw it away just because your preferred domain is unavailable - find a workaround.

My advice is to couple your desired name with a complimentary word. For example if your preferred domain name is www.billybob.com and you're a software company, there's nothing wrong with using www.billybobsoftware.com as your domain.

Don't think of it as a substitute or fallback, it's simply a faster and smarter way to get to market.

Keep an eye on your preferred domain as its registration may lapse and become available. Some domain name registration websites offer a free notification facility for this purpose.

There are also legal avenues you can pursue once you've been trading under your new name. You can argue with 'evidence of prior use'. (Always seek professional legal advice).

Keep in mind you don't typically trade with your domain name. if your business name is Acme, it doesn't matter if your domain name is acmeconsulting.com or acmeproductions.com - you'll still refer to your business as 'Acme', and the logo on your website and marketing can remain as 'Acme'.

People are not going to think less of you for finding a workaround - they're more interested in the value you offer.


The Future of Domains:

Through necessity, domains are increasingly becoming a warehousing facility rather than a glamorous shop front. You visit and use a website, where it's parked is of little significance. The value and success of a website is governed by the quality of its content, not by its domain name.

People no longer have the time or patience to browse, they want to be impressed with your value, not your name.

If you're not convinced, think about the last time you had to manually type a full domain name into your browser to visit a website. If Google is your browser of choice the answer is likely not often.

Google's predictive search is powerful and has dramatically reduced the need to enter full domain names into the browser address bar to visit websites. As a result it has also reduced the need to 'bookmark' websites.

I'm not playing down the importance of securing intellectual property, you should simply think twice about throwing good ideas away, and focus on the true value you offer your customer.
 

© Hamish Chadwick 2011. All Rights Reserved
hamish@imagesubstation.com