This is an age where Twitter can damage corporate reputations and an unregistered domain name can severely shake public confidence.
As the global regulator for web addresses Â releases hundreds of new top-level domains, protecting your own domain name has become even more crucial.
While there are protections Â to stop copyright infringement on domain registrations, brands still need to proactively protect their online reputation â particularly from cyber squatters.
As Sharon Williams, Taurus Marketing CEO, explains: âIf you donât have control of your own name someone else can.â
Many big names have learnt this the hard way. When it comes to domain names, if you snooze â you lose.
Exhibit A: Donald Trump
In 2014, the U.S. District in Brooklyn awarded Donald Trump $32,000 in damages after J. Taikwok Yung, trading as Web-adviso, registered four domains associated with his trademark.
Yungâs websites, www.trumpmumbai.com, www.trumpindia.com, www.trumpbeijing.com and www.trumpabudhabi.com, used to purportedly parody the real estate mogul, were also ordered to be handed back to Trump.
In this case, Trumpâs victory was a good âÂ but not great â outcome. Yung registered his Trump websites in 2007, but it took six years for the situation to be resolved. Who knows how many jokes were had at Trumpâs expense in that time?Â
Exhibit B: Verizon
In 2008, Verizon Communications faced a very serious cyber squatting problem when not one â not four â but 663 domain names were listed by registration company OnlineNIC.
Verizon successfully argued that the 663 domain names had been deliberately chosen to be confused with legitimate Verizon names and was awarded $33.15 million ($50,000 per domain name) in damages.
Whether they received any of that however is another question. OnlineNIC never appeared in court.Â
Exhibit C: Madonna and Sting
Madonna was one of the first big name celebrities to learn the importance of protecting your domain name. Back in 2000, www.madonna.com was used as a porn website. Madonna argued that the site damaged her personal brand and reputation, and it took a long (and arguably embarrassing) legal battle for Madonna to finally obtain the transfer of the web address.
Sting had similar problems. That same year, he lost his lawsuit to reclaim www.sting.com because he couldnât prove the owner had purchased it in âbad faithâ. But eventually it appears that Sting has reclaimed the domain name, with the site now promoting Stingâs music and tours.
The moral of the story
It doesnât matter if youâre a mining giant, real estate magnate or pop star â domain names matter.
Anyone can be a victim of cyber squatting and pay the price: some with their reputation, others with lengthy legal battles and a drop in earnings.
Now is the best time to be proactive. What happens online affects business offline.
What can you do about it?
According to Ms Williams, brands and businesses need to be extra vigilant about online risks like cyber squatting to protect their name and reputation.
1. Getting your ship in orderÂ
âItâs a great idea to make sure all your intellectual property is bedded down,â says Ms Williams. âAim to own or take control to own all the domain names that you could want â in and out of country, all the extensions (eg .net and .com.au) â so that it is recognised you are serious about your brand.â
2. Defensive registeringÂ
âOwn all your domain names and the associated brand and product names. Protecting your brand online is about building online reputational fat in the market, so that people know and understand who you are and what you stand for.â
3. Risk mitigationÂ
âBusiness is hard enough, so donât letÂ yourself be put in the position of not being in control of your domain and your brand names.â
This article from the .SYDNEY website was sourced with permission by ARI Registry Services from: