Ultimate Guide to Securing and Safeguarding Domain Names

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Published: Jan 15, 2024
Updated: May 13, 2024
Ultimate Guide to Securing and Safeguarding Domain Names

Manipulating domain names is a clever way that violators trying to steal your intellectual property get customers for themselves. One of the key methods that we are all taught to check for scams is by looking at the website’s domain name. 

But with counterfeiters getting increasingly smart at choosing domain names which could easily be confused for yours, this simple check is no longer enough. You need to be proactive and have a strategy in place which not only protects your own domain name but also those which are similar. 

What is a Domain Name?

Internet domain names are made up of two sections – a top level domain and a secondary level domain. The top level domain is the ‘.com’ section. Of course, there are a number of variations – ‘.net’, ‘.org’, ‘.info’, ‘.biz’ and so on. 

The examples above are unrestricted top level domains. That means that there are no regulations about who can use them – any type of business or even private individuals are free to use them. 

Some top level domains are restricted – for example .edu for educational establishments or .mil for the military. The secondary level domain is the part that comes before – ‘thenameofyourbusiness’. Now for your business – you’ll probably decide that the ‘.com’ top level domain is most appropriate – it tends to give some legitimacy to commercial businesses. 

If the secondary level domain isn’t available, you might be tempted to still use it but change the top level. This can be incredibly confusing for clients, particularly if your business is similar to the one who took it. IP violators are also aware of the possibility of mixing a taken secondary level domain with a different top level. This is a very common way that people selling fake versions of your product can trick customers into thinking they are buying the real thing.

Choosing Your Domain Name

An obvious choice for registering your domain name is to choose the name of your company or the service or product that you’re most known for. 

It should be in line with your branding – something that’s catchy and significant for your company. It goes without saying that your choice also needs to be available. 

You also need to consider the length of time that you’ll register the domain name for. You can choose from the maximum amount of ten years, the minimum of one year, or anything in between. You’ll get a reminder before the domain name expires so that you can continue to register it in the future as necessary.

What if My Chosen Domain Name is Taken?

If you are adamant about registering a specific domain name in particular, there is a way to find out who has it registered currently.

There are a number of ‘WhoIs’ directories and a simple Google search will bring you to one. From there, you can search the domain and obtain contact details for the relevant person.

Helpfully, the database will also let you know when the domain will expire. If the date is coming up, you could wait to find out whether it will be renewed again. Bear in mind, though, that it is quite rare for people to let domain names go. If it’s likely to be highly sought after, they would more likely be sold to someone else even if the original owner doesn’t want to keep it.

Should I Register My Domain Name as a Trademark?

Domain names can be registered as trademarks.

The benefit of this is that not only will your particular domain name be prevented from being used by counterfeiters in other formats, you’ll also prevent other similar domain names who aren’t legitimate businesses being registered.

The usual rules for successfully registering a trademark apply. This means that the domain name needs to clearly identify your business and product or service offerings. The name needs to be completely distinguishable from your competitors.

How to Prevent Others Using a Domain Name That is Close to Mine

If you’ve registered your domain name as a trademark, you will have recourse under consumer protection acts to remove any outright infringements. The exact process for this will depend on your jurisdiction.

Apart from simple copying, a key thing to look out for is the deliberate use of typos. Many violators deliberately miss-spell your domain name and register different variations of these. The hope is that instead of customer’s being redirected to your legitimate domain, they will capture sales of people who have no idea they are not shopping with you.

The remedy for infringements of a trademarked domain name? A lawsuit. If you have lost revenue as a result, you can sue the violator on the basis that they intended to profit in bad faith. The domain name doesn’t need to be exactly the same, just ‘confusingly similar’. 

Most lawsuits don’t make it to court and some sort of settlement is reached as part of the dispute resolution process. But of course, the legal process takes time and when someone is out there stealing your intellectual property, you need an immediate response. Digitage IP services can remove the violation for you, so that no one is profiting whilst you are sorting out the legal aspect.

Can I Purchase Domain Names That are Similar to Mine?

Registering domain names that are similar to yours, whether you have a trademark in place or not, is a common strategy for brand protection. 

It prevents some of the actions, such as deliberate use of typos, that we’ve discussed in this article. When registering a domain name, there is no requirement to actually set up a website and use them. They can just sit dormant but in your name, not someone else’s. 

The best place to start is by registering different top level domains – so the name of your current website but with different endings. This is sometimes the place that counterfeiters start to, so you’d be stopping them in their tracks.

Also spend some time thinking about obvious typos or pluralizations which violators would consider to be an easy copy.

How Digitage Can Help You Protect Your Domain Name

When registering a domain name, you need to provide an address and contact information. But those breaking the law don’t exactly sign up using their real identities. And that can make removing violations extremely difficult. 

At Digitage IP services, we’re used to finding infringements and notifying our clients immediately. Domain name protection is a technical area and our team has the level of expertise necessary to keep your brand and your customers safe. 

We understand that there is no ‘one size all’ approach and will provide your business with a personalized strategy to protect itself.  Ultimately, there’s nothing you can do to stop violators targeting your business completely. The power is in the action we can take to build a strong defense and act fast.

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