Last month we covered how to select an excellent URL to help build your brand. Since April 26th is World Intellectual Property Day, I wanted to cover a few pointers on how to protect your own intellectual property, your brand, your current projects and even your future endeavors. Here is how you do it …What is Cybersquatting?
Cybersquatters are individuals or companies that buy registration rights for popular, trademarked and established business names with the purpose of reselling to the rightful owner or diverting traffic from the rightful brand-owner to other sites. A few years ago, this was only a problem for large, national and international companies… think “McDonalds and Wal-Mart” – but as the importance of local search increases, cybersquatting for smaller company names and typosquatting (purchasing variations and misspellings of popular names) will be on the rise. This means there is an increasing threat to smaller companies like yours. Brands like yours. Names like yours.
What Should You Do?
So, if your business name isn’t your current URL, and you find that your business name is currently available as a URL… grab it! Even if you don’t plan to use it as your main address, you should redirect it to your active URL or hold it to prevent others from misusing your good name. Grab any misspellings or common typo forms of your name as well.
For instance, if your business name is Best Service Realty, and your URL is MyTownHomesForSale.com, you should also grab “BestServiceRealty.com” and “BestServiceRealEstate.com” and perhaps even “BestServiceRealEstateAgent.com” For any primary branding .coms that you grab, you should also grab the .net and .org to protect your brand. For misspellings, like “MyTownHomes4sale.com” “MyTownHomesFourSale.com” and singular (or plural versions) “MyTownHomeForSale.com” you only need the .com – that’s to prevent a thoughtless typo or a momentary finger-tangling from directing your potential clients to a predator’s site.
What are the other URLs you should consider capturing?
How about your phone number? (Capture with and without dashes) Buy your tagline too. I currently own my tagline url (www.WritingAndMarketingMagic.com) and variations on my own business name (www.WickedWriting.com and www.WickedWebCraft.com) and my line of work (www.WickedWebMarketing.com and www.WickedWebWriter.com).
You work hard to build your business, to promote your service to your clients under a single brand name. The last thing you want to do is work this hard to create a business that rewards someone too lazy to build their own, but crafty enough to steal yours.
How Much Will It Cost?
These online protections are relatively cheap as marketing expenses go – less than $10 per name per year if you register with GoDaddy.com, much less if you register for multiple years. So, it doesn’t cost much to buy a little protection and some peace of mind.
Will You Have Problems If You Collect Cool URLs?
Most of us own a couple (or even a couple dozen… or *gulp* a couple hundred) favorite URLs that were just too cool NOT to buy. I own several URLs that I plan to resell along with a concept outline to help entrepreneurs develop the names into viable businesses. (It’s business development marketing, it’s what I do.) Likewise, you may plan to offer domain names from your own collection for sale to others. That’s not cybersquatting — unless you are doing it with the intent of gouging the rightful owners of an existing business name or trademark.
What if Someone Already Owns Your URL?
If it’s a URL you just want, but isn’t your business name, you can offer them a fair price for it. If you find a URL you want and you don’t want to pay the asking price to the current owner, or if you are the patient type, you can use a URL monitoring service (GoDaddy.com offers a backorder option), and wait it out in the hope that they fail to renew.
But, if it’s your actual business name, or a proprietary intellectual holding and they grabbed it after you established the business, you may be able to fight it legally. In November of 1999, President Clinton signed the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act to help businesses beat these predatory practices. Under this act, prosecutable bad faith is defined by registration of a domain name:
With intent to cause confusion or mistake, deceive or cause dilution of the distinctive quality of a famous trademark; or
With the intention of diverting consumers from the domain or other online location of the person or entity who is the owner of a trademark.
For more information on cybersquatting prevention and general intellectual property protection, visit The World Intellectual Property Organization. This organization has resources you may find educational as well as an arbitration center. Trademark laws also now cover wrongful purchase of URLs, check with your attorney or a trademark specialist to determine if you have a case.
NOTE: Remember that “REALTOR®” is a registered trademark. Don’t use this in your URL, even if you are a REALTOR, without permission.
Things to Remember When Buying URLs
If you plan to collect URLs for resale, do so ethically. Make sure your purchases aren’t predatory. If you are trying to protect your own brand, consider all aspects of how the cream from your branding could be siphoned off by an unscrupulous domain poacher and secure those URLs. (Don’t try to cover all possible variations, you will make yourself crazy.) I’m embarrassed to admit how many domain names I own at the moment… so be careful, collecting domains is addictive!
Do employ the 80/20 rule to minimize your exposure to online brand-poaching – i.e., expend 20 percent of your effort and URL purchasing dollars to cover 80 percent of your potential losses to poachers.
Just get the most obvious URLs and then get back to business building your brand!
DISCLAIMER: I am not an attorney and this article is for informational purposes only. Contact an intellectual property rights attorney for a legal opinion and guidance concerning protecting your intellectual property rights, domain name use and purchasing practices.