In this age of the internet, where much business is transacted or promoted over the internet, keeping your domain names safe can be absolutely vital, with some big domain names changing hands for multi-million dollar sums in recent years.
We had a recent upsetting case of a well-established owner, with a business name like somebusiness.com, finding to her dismay that one of her competitors had registered a .au domain of the same name – somebusiness.com.au. Understandably she felt that her competitor, a much smaller business with lower quality standards, was trying to trade off her good name. At the time she’d set her website up, we remember suggesting she consider registered the .com.au domain, and now she’s in a difficult position, with little chance of recourse.
“Domain pirates” as they are called, regularly register domains that might be wanted by existing companies or businesses, and put them up for sale at exorbitant prices. More troubling is the disturbing practice of some companies in the US, where they register known domains as they expire, in the knowledge that they’ll be able to hold any business owner to ransom. Sometimes a domain owner is successful in negotiating a purchase to get their domain back, but they often have to outlay sums like US$500 or $1500 to be successful. Unfortunately, domain ownership is difficult to challenge, once a domain is registered, and unless you are a multi-national with hordes of lawyers willing to monster unaware domain registrants, there’s actually little that can be done. (If you do try to negotiate a price down, don’t sound too interested or desperate, and don’t let on that you’re committed to that name!)
So, if you have a domain name, we recommend you register the .com or .com.au counterpart – this is known as “Protective domain registration”. For instance, if your business had the domain somedomain.com.au, try to get the name somedomain.com registered if it is available. Domain name checks should form part of your due practice as a business owner starting up a business. As you look for a viable name for your business, also look on the web to see if you can register a domain with that name. Try to keep the name reasonably short, and reconsider if a close competitor has a very similar name registered as some of your customers may end up going there instead!
If you have a larger (or internet-based) business, you may also consider registering the other domain variants such as somebusiness.net, .org, .biz and .info, although they are still less commonly used than the ubiquitous .com domain ending. The very large companies will also register companysucks.com and —-company.com (where —- is common and unprintable).
We don’t recommend you go overboard with this, but bear in mind how you’ll feel in 5 years time when you’ve forgotten to do this and your competitor comes in at the last minute, grabs a domain similar to yours, and starts stealing your customers.
We don’t think you’d be happy!