What's in a name: thoughts on domain names and corporate names
Sometimes it seems like all clients have the same issue at once. One series of issues that seems to be among the popular issues du jour is what to do to secure domain names and corporate names. Needless to say, this should also dovetail with securing appropriate trademarks.
Here are some strategies you can consider when registering domain names:
1. Register with the most popular top-level domains. Obviously, .com domains are the most popular by far, followed by .net and .org. You might also register domain names in the .biz registry, and in the .info, and .us registries. The Columbian registry (.co) is also making a big push to be an alternate .com (though it’s not clear it has much traction yet), so you might consider that as well.
2. You might consider registering some of the popular country-code top-level domains such as .co.uk, .ca, .asia, .de, .cn, .eu, .jp, and so forth, and country domains for any country where you expect to have significant business activity.
3. You might consider applying to register a “non-resolving” (inactive) .xxx domain name once they become available on December 6, 2011, or if you already owned a trademark registration prior to September 1, 2011, you may be able to take advantage of the cost-effective .xxx “Sunrise B,” which allows trademark owners to block a domain name for at least ten years for a one-time fee. See http://www.icmregistry.com/launch/general-availability/. Josh Jarvis, one of my colleagues writes a blog on trademarks, copyrights and related matters, and you might check his blog out for more on these topics.
4. To protect against competitors and cybersquatters, you may wish to “defensively” register certain variations of "yourdomainname" in at least the most popular domains (.com, .net, and .org). Some tricks used by competitors and cybersquatters include:
a. Changing singular to plural, or vice-versa.
b. Common misspellings or spelling variations -- e.g., using “z” instead of “s”.
c. Hyphens in obvious phrase breaks -- e.g., “soft-boiled.com.”
c. Typos -- e.g., sofboiled.com (missing letter) or substituting “d” for “s” or vice versa because it’s adjacent on keyboards
5. To protect against disgruntled customers or unscrupulous competitors, you may wish to “defensively” register so-called “gripe” domain names, at least in the most popular domains (.com, .net, and .org). Ever popular creative favorites among the disgruntled are “Sucks” (e.g., softboiledsucks.com) which is by far the most popular of these, though other obvious four letter words are used.
Generally, it’s easy to get carried away -- it’s simply not possible to capture every possible misspelling, typo, or gripe variation in a single top-level domain, let alone multiple top-level domains. This is especially the case where the number of top-level domains is expected to increase exponentially over the next few years. The key is to get the most obvious and most likely suspects, at least in the .com registry if nowhere else. Keep in mind that you may have legal recourse available in the event of future bad-faith cybersquatting.
With respect to corporate names, as with domain names, you can't, as a practical matter, get every similar name in every relevant jurisdiction, but again you should think defensively and get whatever makes common sense in Delaware. You might consider, but I also think it may be going too far, other big jurisdictions such as New York, California, Texas, and Mass. Getting the corporate name, really means forming a corporation (even if it is an inactive shell) in the relevant jurisdiction.