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Protecting your Company’s Domain Name

By Jay Hollander, Esq., Hollander and Company LLC

Jay Hollander, Esq. is the principal of Hollander and Company LLC, www.hollanderco.com, a New York City law firm concentrating its efforts in the protection and development of property interests relating to real property, intellectual property and commercial interests, as well as related litigation.>

The content of this article, originally published in the Summer 2008 Edition of  "Business Matters", is intended to provide general information relating to its subject matter. Providing it does not establish any attorney-client relationship and does not constitute legal advice. Personal advice in the context of a mutually agreed attorney-client relationship should be sought about your specific circumstances.


If your company uses the Internet to gather leads, promote your services or to do actual business,  you need to protect your web based intellectual property in order to avoid your creative assets being stolen or misused.

As previously written in this publication, you’ve probably heard of the importance of trademarks to your continuing web presence. If you missed that article, you can learn more about the importance of trademarks to your business at www.hollanderco.com/tmseries/.

It’s not an exaggeration to say that the Internet is the single most important way that your potential business partners, advertisers and customers will find your business in today’s World. Memorable and protectable domain names, the names you type into the address bar in your browser to navigate to a particular web site, are as important to business today as a publicly accessible phone number. 

Yet, as important as these names are to virtually all businesses today, most businesses, perhaps including yours, still lack of a comprehensive domain name protection strategy to protect their domain names from theft or loss.

Stories abound of businesses who’ve spent significant dollars on promotion and who tried to register one or more domain names that reflect their company’s identity, only to find that someone already registered it and wouldn’t relinquish it except for a King’s ransom.

Worse yet, companies had employees register domain names only to find that they won’t relinquish them when they are fired or laid off.

All of these problems and more can be addressed with a soundly prepared and implemented domain name strategy for your company.

While it pays to review or formulate and implement this plan with your attorney, to insure that your stable of domain names are legally protectable, here’s the basics of a comprehensive domain name plan.

First, conduct an audit of all of your company’s existing domain names. The information should include things like the actual domain name, spelled properly, the name of the registrar who sold you the domain name, the expiration date of the registration, and the names of the listed administrative and technical contacts associated with the registration.

Make sure to correct all contact information so that you, as the principal of your company are the only one who has access to the account.  Your account should be locked and you should maintain the lock code in a safe place. You may also choose to make your registraiton private with one of the many registrars who offer this service.

Second, brainstorm all the words and phrases that could be used to remind someone of your company, its products or services. Think of item names, program names, slogans you’ve used, etc. Then consider how to incorporate them into easy to remember domain names,  registering the ones that you think will be most valuable. While no one wants to throw away money, registration these days is relatively cheap, sometimes less than ten dollars a year and shouldn’t pose an insurmountable obstacle to most businesses.

Next,  since domain names can be registered for as many as ten years at a time, register your most valuable names for as long as possible to ensure maximum protection.

An important part of all domain names is the part that comes at the end, such as “.com”, “.org”, etc. These are known as generic Top Level Domains or  gTLD’s for short. While certain gTLD’s are intended to be restricted to certain uses, when it comes to gTLDS’s that are available to everyone, consider registering your valuable domain names across as many of them as are possible and affordable.

Lastly, keep good records in a safe place and with multiple methods of alerting you of both upcoming registration expiration dates as well as any efforts by anyone to transfer the domain name. Don’t just have reminders sent to one email address but to an alternate as well.

While, with the help of counsel knowledgeable in the area, there are further steps that can be taken, making sure that these basic steps are covered will put you ahead of many other small businesses in the race to protect valuable domain name properties.  

 

Copyright © 2008. Jay Hollander. All Rights Reserved.

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