|Thursday, January 23, 2020|
The Com Game
By Carl Leibowitz, LawScope Contributor
; Page 8.1
So you want a domain name. You hear that kids who started dotcom companies became millionaires overnight. Maybe you just want a website out of vanity. Visit me at, "johndoe.com". You want a domain name that's snappy, funny and catches attention.
But tens of thousands of others beat you to the draw and have been mining the domain vein for years!
For a long time Network solutions, http://www.networksolutions.com/, had the exclusive right to sell domain names. Now there are many sites offering to register you in the domain game. (A list of some registration sites follows this article.)
You may find you are already late for the party. When you go to register that perfect name, chances are more than likely you'll find it's gone. Even if you want to use your own name, or the name of your company, it may not be available to you.
You mean someone else can use my name? Hard to believe?
Just a few years ago, when people started registering domain names, those ahead of the curve, realized the importance of grabbing a good name. Those who did, gobbled them up by the hand full. It's inexpensive to register a domain name, about $70 and that gives you rights to the name for two years.
Now if you want ".com " after your name your going to have to be creative. The registration sites offer you help. "Wizards" let you plug in a few words to describe what you want and then it generates a couple of choices. Sometimes putting a hyphen in the name, or adding prefixes like "my" or "e" will get you closer to the name you want. You may also find that although the good "dotcom" names are gone, you may be able to register the same name as ".net" or ".org" if you are a non-profit company. There are also a lot of new "dots" available like ".cc" that are not as widely known at this time, but may give you the name you want if you're willing to explain to everyone that your address ends in something other than ".com". This is providing a new challenge to those who want to promote their name and branding but are not in the ".com" mainstream.
Some of those early-bird.coms may have stepped over the legal line. They may have registered names violating trademarks belonging to others with the intent of making a quick profit. Many businesses were not prepared for the emergence of e-commerce, and are only now trying to reclaim their name.
Under current trademark law, a person can not use a domain name or logo that might confuse customers about the source of the goods and services being offered for sale. The law prohibits using a domain name that invokes famous products or companies. Now some of the early domain homesteaders tried to pull a fast one, laying claim to a domain that is similar to a distinctive or famous name for the purpose of selling it to the company at an enormous profit. Some have been snubbed in their efforts. For example when a guy named Roy Jerasi from Grand Isle, Louisiana jumped on the opportunity to register www.AmericaOnline.com , he tried to turn a neat profit by offering to sell it to AOL for a million dollars. Regardie's "Power" magazine quotes Jersai as saying, "I called up AOL to see if we could work out a deal, but they wouldn't even consider it. They said, 'No way. Forget about it.' $70 was there top offer. That was that". That's not a penny more than the price he paid for registered the domain name.
There's a new legal specialty developing among lawyers who sue cybersquatters. Trademark law will protect companies, organizations, and famous people that have worked hard at creating their name, servicemark and logo. Today, it is harder to use a domain name that resembles the name that others have invested time and money in to build their brand.
Sometimes companies that want their good name back, go to arbitration. eResolutions Inc., is another avenue to attempt to resolve the issue of who gets to use the name in a fair and just matter. So if your name is taken and you could make the case that it was wrongfully taken.
Now if it hasn't already occurred to you, there is a booming market in the re-sale of already registered domain names. Dozens of sites have sprung up offering to broker or auction thousands of names. Costs of an already registered name can range from $100 to $1 Million or more for the "hot dots." (A list of some of the re-sellers of domain names follows this article).
So give it a try. See if you can register the name you want, and if not look for another alternative.
Here are some of the sites where you can search to see if the domain name you want is available and register it if you want:
Here are some resellers of domain names:
About the author: Carl Leibowitz is a lawyer and journalist. He graduated from the University of Baltimore Law School in 1998. He interned for Court TV, worked for ABC News in Washington, and is currently at MSNBC in Secaucus, New Jersey.
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