What Are Internet Domain Names And How Do They Work
A domain name forms your website address and part of your email address, like ourcompany.co.uk. Your domain name enables other people to find your website or send emails to you.
Each domain name has two parts. The first part can be any combination of letters and numbers, between three and 63 characters long. You can also include hyphens, as long as they aren’t at the start or end of the domain.
Domain names are not case sensitive, so upper and lower-case letters are treated the same. Some domain names can contain non-Latin characters, such as Chinese or Arabic.
Most businesses try to choose a domain name that relates to them, such as the name of their company or product .
The second part of the name is the domain name extension. This can indicate in which country the name is registered or what kind of organisation is using it.
There are many domain name extensions to choose from, reflecting different locations, industries and concepts:
- There are geographic domain extensions for different countries, like .uk. These may be divided into sub-categories. For example, .co.uk is intended for use by commercial organisations in the UK, while .org.uk is intended for non-profit organisations. You can also have the shorter, simpler .uk.
- There are many international or ‘generic’ domain extensions for different types of organisation. For example, .com is the most common generic extension. In recent years, many new domain extensions have become available.
Protecting Your Domain Name
The best way to protect your domain name is to solidify your intellectual property rights by registering a trademark. Before this however, you should be diligent in checking that your name is available as both a domain name and a trademark. To check that your domain name is available for trademark protection, you should consult with a trademark lawyer. From there, your lawyer will assess the nature of your domain name and business to provide you with advice on how to best protect your domain name.
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Jennifer is a Paralegal, working in our content team, which aims to provide free legal guides to facilitate public access to legal resources. With a keen interest in media and IP law, her research focuses on the evolving role of the law to navigate new and emerging information platforms.
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What Are My Chances
The best initial option is to talk to a specialist in trade mark disputes, to get some idea of your legal position. However, the simple rule with domain name complaints is not to make one, unless your adviser is at least 80 percent sure that you will win.
If a domain name is unused and contains a non-famous brand, it will be difficult to prove bad faith, and there is often little that can be done to force the domain name holder to hand over the domain name.
It often better to put the person on notice of trade mark rights and warn them that use of the domain name could lead to court action. An unused domain name is a nuisance but is rarely damaging.
Alternatively, many domain name holders are prepared to sell their domain for a reasonable price . Although unpalatable, paying for transfer of the domain is often the most cost-effective way of obtaining the domain name.
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What Can We Do If Someone Is Using Our Trademark To Attract Visitors To Their Website
You are likely to have a strong claim against someone who registers a domain name using your trademark and then uses it to sell similar products.
Even if they have some right to the domain name, you could take court action against them for breaching your intellectual property rights.
The position becomes less clear if the website does not relate to the products covered by your trademark. You will still have a strong claim if they are deliberately passing themselves off as being related to your business.
As this is a complex and changing area of law, you should take advice.
Phishing Attacks Happen Dont Get Caught
Phishing attacks combine social engineering with technical trickery as a means of obtaining your private account information. They can come in the form of spoofed emails leading to a bogus website, where the attackers fool people into divulging usernames, passwords, and other account details.
The criminals who perpetrate phishing attacks are clever. Theyll send you an email that looks exactly like one from your registrar, or maybe theyll even make it appear that ICANN is reaching out to you.
Theyll mimic the design and layout of a genuine email and come up with a convincing email address. For example, your registrar may correspond with you from myregistar.com phishing attackers will send from an account like myregistarsupport.com or myregistaradmin.com.
One way to guard against phishing attacks is to approach any email from your registrar with caution. Rather than clicking a link in the email, open a web browser and log into your domain account as you normally would. The email may be trying to trick you with a false report of an account issue. If you access your account via the sites login page and dont see a notification about the problem, alarm bells should go off.
Other types of attacks involve criminals installing spyware on your computer to steal login credentials using a keylogger application, for example.
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Web Hosts And Domain Names
You needn’t go to a dedicated registration service to buy a domain name, though. The best web hosting services, such as DreamHost, HostGator, and Hostwinds routinely offer a registration mechanism as part of the sign-up process. Hosting services typically offer a free domain name when you sign up for a web hosting package.
Keep in mind, however, that free domain names are usually free only for one or two years, after which the registrar will bill you for the annual or biennial fee. In other words, the provider of the free domain name pays only for the first billing from the registrar. Also take note of whether or not the provider charges a fee for setting up a domain name. Most services offer to transfer an existing domain name to their servers at no cost, but sometimes you’ll find a setup fee over and above the registrar’s fee.
Please note that not all web hosts give you the option to register a domain name. Cloudways, for example, is a solid web host that requires you to purchase a domain name from elsewhere.
Registrars offer a wide variety of registration durationsone year, three, five, and even ten. Be careful about registering for more than a year, though. First, there might be restrictions on your ability to transfer the domain name should the registrar give poor service. Second, the registrar could go out of business, leaving your domain name without a host. Check the policies closely.
Couldnt I Just Get A Username On A Big Web Platform
Having your own domain name, even if its not perfect, is a far better option than building your online presence on top of another services URL, e.g. yourshop.shopify.com or facebook.com/yourcompany. This practice of building your brand, service, or web presence on another organizations platform is an example of sharecropping, and can be problematic for a number of reasons.
With this sharecropping setup, the platform youre hosted on:
- controls how your presence can look or function .
- can change services or raise rates, leaving you little recourse, since not accepting/paying could mean losing your site.
- can control how much exposure you get. Thereve been lots of articles about issues with brands on Facebook getting ever-lessening exposure of their content to their fans if they dont pay for advertising.
- can limit your access to analytics, making it hard to know how large your audience is, what theyre doing on your site, or where theyre engaging when theyre there.
- can simply take your site offline without much notice, explanation or recourse if you are deemed to have violated terms of service or other issues. It can take a lot of time and frustration to get these issues sorted out, and all the while your site is unavailable to anyone.
You can always switch domains later, but its a good idea to start with a web address you control while you build up your search engine visibility.
Pick A Reputable Registrar And Lock Your Domain Name
Choose a reputable registrar, and make sure that they will let you lock your domain. Locking the domain name will prevent any request for changing its ownership until additional action is made. While most registrars have their own procedures on registrar locking the domain name, it is always smart that you also enable a registry lock . Make sure to choose a domain name that supports it. Registry lock involves you and your registrar, but also the registry, which will prevent any change until it is notified about them by both you and your registrar via secure communication channels. This makes it much harder for someone to transfer the domain name out, and buys you precious time to prevent the theft.
Someone Can Try Reverse Domain Hijacking
If hackers were not too much of a worry, there are also lawyers to think about. Reverse domain hijacking is, in simple, a practice of another entity deliberately registering something with the name of your domain , and then accusing you of stealing their domain name.
While claims in bad faith are denied in court, these trials can get expensive, and are often used to strong-arm people into settlements in which they lose their domain names out of court.
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Use A Different Domain Extension
If you really love your chosen domain name and the alternatives are just not working for you, you can always use a different domain extension. .Com is the most common, but the range of TLDs continues to grow. With hundreds of TLDs available, theres a lot more flexibility today.
Also, depending on where you expect a lot of your online traffic to come from, many visitors may never even realize that youre NOT a .com. If traffic comes from referral links and searches, visitors to your site will most likely not notice your domain extension. Some of the more common extensions youve probably seen are .biz, .net., .ly, .guru, but there are also options for various industries, like:
you get the idea. If youd like to learn more about various TLDs, .
Whether youre brainstorming to modify your name just enough to find a relevant and available .com or youre starting from scratch, here are a few pointers on selecting domain names:
Good luck with your domain name selection and remember that it doesnt have to be permanent. Your original .com choice may one day become available, if you choose to make the transition. The important thing is that you kick off your web presence with a simple, memorable, and relevant domain name that helps the right customers find you online.
Once youve selected your domain name, get your business online with our easy-to-use website builder.
Someone Already Has My Domain
Ok so it is too late no what. Follow these steps:
Using the ICANN Procedure
Suing Under the ACPA
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Why Are Trademark Domain Names Important
Domain name disputes can arise, so having protection under USPTO law is beneficial. Take Hasbro Games, the creators of the famous board game Candy Land. They had to sue for the domain name candyland.com, as it belonged to an, ahem, adult entertainment company using the same name. Hasbro won on the basis of trademark dilution, saying that the domain undermined Hasbro’s own trademark and confused customers. You don’t want someone else’s domain that is identical or even similar to yours to confuse, or in this case offend, your audience. Trademarking your domain name is an important part of protecting your intellectual property.
Availability Of State Law Claims For Trademark Violations
Some states have also drafted their own cybersquatting laws. For example, California has California Prof. Bus. Code § 17525. This trademark law better protects the victims of cybersquatting for two main reasons.
First, Californias cybersquatting statute does not have an intent-to-profit requirement. Recall that under federal law, the plaintiff must show that the person who registered the domain had the intent to profit at the time of registration.
Proving this intent is straightforward when the cybersquatter reaches out to the victim and asks them to buy the domain name. But most cybersquatters do not do this. Instead, they acquire the domain and wait for the victim to approach them.
When this happens, the plaintiff has trouble proving that the cybersquatter intended to profit from the domain name at the time of registration. Without the cybersquatter reaching out first, there is often no evidence available to meet the intent-to-profit requirement.
Second, Californias cybersquatting law does not distinguish domain name legal disputes involving marks and individual names.
Californias law is similar to the ACPA in that it utilizes the same nine factors in defining bad faith. But it also adds one more factor to cover situations when the domain name is used to deceive voters on election matters. Californias law also provides First Amendment safeguards.
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