One of the biggest challenges with establishing an Internet presence isn’t technical - it is selecting a domain name or names. Many times people have an idea on a potential name only to find it is taken. Sure, many good names are taken, but there are plenty available, and this is where I have enjoyed working with clients to select a name. In many cases, we may select a “generic” domain name, one that is not a trademark but common words that describe their products or services. An example is childproofhome.com for my client Foresight Childproofing, Inc. which is also easier to spell and remember.
There is a large aftermarket for domain names – names that have already been registered by someone else and are for sale. Some people buy names as an investment, others have names they are no longer using. We’re not talking about trademarks of products or companies, but generic names or names of people. If such a domain name is desired by someone else, they may engage with the current owner and buy it, and the cost is usually larger than the “core” cost of registering a domain name, and some names go from the hundreds to tens of thousands.
Domain names are registered on a first-come-first-serve basis. Why does the Boston Globe own boston.com? Because they were the first to register it. Though the name pertains to the newspaper in the capital city of Massachusetts, there are other cities and towns named Boston and some people have Boston as a last name. And surely there are businesses that have Boston in their title. As the Globe got it first, it is theirs. Where others may wish to have it, this is how the system was established, and for lack of a different or better system, it works.
If someone buys a domain name that is a trademarked name or a name that someone else claims should be theirs, there is a legal process that is followed through ICANN, which is the international body that oversees many aspects of the Internet, including domain names. Many people and businesses have won claims to domain names from others. Singer Madonna got madonna.com through an appeal, however the Los Angeles Angels baseball team did not get angels.com – it was determined that its South Korean owner had proper claim to the name. There is currently a case between two people named Keith Urban, one is the country music singer and the other is not as famous, but owns keithurban.com.
So who should own a domain name? It is a question that is philosophical as much as it is legal. I am presenting this information as it is something being reported more in the mainstream press, with recent articles in USA Today and the Boston Globe. And there is a law recently passed that may have more impact if its deficiencies are not glossed over by the courts. More to come.
Interesting question Mike. I think that everyone should purchase a personal domain to start with. Get your last name if you can or something similar. I bought my own domain, jacobsohn.com back in 1998. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with it at first but knew that I should have it for future use. I decided to use the domain to create a personal branding site that provides networking resources for Chicagoland professionals. Back then, I think that I paid about $35 per year for the domain! Nowadays, you can buy a domain for well under $10 per year. So, go ahead and make the investment.
Comment by Jason Jacobsohn
on 08/11/07 at 06:58 AM
Hi Jason - You were very wise in 1998, and of course even moreso now! Many companies hadn’t realized back then that they needed to register a domain name or more like names, and now are regretting it, especially the generic terms that describe their business and services.
Comment by Mike Maddaloni
on 08/11/07 at 08:54 AM
hi mike, i am having an online business idea that iam working on. frankly i have always been a normal user to the internet not knowing much about the backend stuff. but i had to go deeper and find the appropriate name describing my business and suddenly i found myself buying alot of doman names including my full name and sur name and i went further by buying other peoples names!! now i am wondering about the legality of owning other peoples names, specially when u mentioned the appeal madonna made to get madonna.com. also does the law of domain names ownership is an international one ??
Comment by ayman hosni
on 09/29/07 at 05:52 PM
Hi Ayman - The ICANN process is international, and you can read more about it icann.org. When you refer to other names, it could depend if you are just registering “common” names or names of specific people, such as Mike Maddaloni.
Comment by Mike Maddaloni
on 10/01/07 at 07:08 AM
hi mike, you were really were very intelligent in 1998. i do feel it is very difficult to select a domain name. but the main thing is, it should be very catchy.
Comment by domain
on 10/12/08 at 08:29 AM
Hi Domain… Thanks! It requires thought to come up with a good domain name, as well as a good business plan too!
Comment by Mike Maddaloni
on 10/12/08 at 09:03 AM
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