Does Someone Else Own Your Dream Domain?

There are a number of tasks to check off the list when you’re starting up your new business. You’ll want to have a preliminary business plan, with strategy, marketing, and financials laid out in a clear, concise form. You’ll want to make sure you create the correct entity for your business needs. But few items are as important today as registering and creating your business website.

So you go to GoDaddy, Network Solutions, or another domain provider, and type in your desired domain name, only to find DOMAIN UNAVAILABLE staring you in the face. What are your options when someone else owns your dream domain name?

SETTLE FOR ANOTHER DOMAIN

You could decide to register another, available name for your website. Maybe you decide it is acceptable to use a .net or .biz website instead of the unavailable .com. Maybe you are content to add a name or location to the domain to make it more specific (and increase the likelihood of availability).

This is the simplest solution, and it will work for some companies. Some businesses may not depend as much on brand recognition or do not intend to use their website for lead generation. Artists, independent contractors, and sole proprietors might be content to go this route to avoid delay or expense.

However, for most businesses, caving on the perfect domain name falls somewhere between unwise and unacceptable. The amount of equity you can create with the ideal domain name in terms of additional business, recognition, and intellectual property requires you to push forward.

NEGOTIATE DIRECTLY WITH THE DOMAIN OWNER

Bargaining directly with the owner of your coveted domain can be a relatively painless option, but the results are unpredictable, and this process could put you in a worse position than you were before.

Fortunately, most domain registrars allow customers to submit anonymous offers for domain transfers. Anonymity is most often the best course of action here, as you will not want to tip off the seller of your identity or your purpose for using the website. Expect the price of doing business to go up if you reveal information about your business to the prospective seller.

However, even an anonymous offer may not achieve the desired result, for example if the asking price is still too high, or the domain owner is unresponsive. Also, you may by now be getting the sense that it seems unfair for you, the rightful business owner, to pay someone else for your domain.

PURSUE LEGAL ACTION TO OBTAIN YOUR DOMAIN

Now you’re starting to catch on. If you already have existing intellectual property in the domain name, such as a trademark, you may have a case to sue for the transfer of the domain name to your business. (And if you don’t yet have registered intellectual property in your business, consider getting started).

ICANN, the regulating body for the world’s internet domain names, provides individuals who possess recognized trademark rights a quick, inexpensive way to acquire their domain name from a bad faith registrant. With the filing of an arbitration complaint, and a successful hearing on the facts, the transfer can be accomplished in a matter of a few months. Better yet, you don’t have to pay the people that have been squatting on your domain!

Of course a lawsuit in state or federal court may still be advisable depending on your circumstances, but ICANN Uniform Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP) arbitration provides a seamless path for busy entrepreneurs and business owners to get their website up and running in a quick manner.

If you have questions or comments about your intellectual property or domain rights, reach out to us. We would love to hear your feedback.

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