Make sure you have control of your domain – or prepare to pay the price
The internet has made millionaires out of some quick-thinking people who bought up generic domain names in the early dotcom years. Domain names can cost less than €1, but if they are highly desirable they can be sold for millions. Take the example of Business. com, which sold to speciality search company RH Donnelly for $350 million in 2007.
The practice dates back to a time when most businesses were not savvy about the commercial opportunities on the internet. However, some of the biggest technology companies today are still slow off the mark when it comes to registering domain names.
One such company is Apple. In 2011, the tech giant paid Sweden-based computing company Xcerion a rumoured $4.5 million for the domain name iCloud. Apple also paid more than $1 million for iPhone.com in 2007.
However, despite being one of the wealthiest tech companies in the world, Apple does not have control of the domain name portfolio for its hit iPad tablets. Apparently iPad.com is a dead website, showing a construction site saying “coming soon”. The website iPadHD.com is owned by an iPad accessories blogger, while iPad2.com is owned by Apple news website Mac Rumors. Apple did, however, secure iPad3.com.
Some early dotcom domain grabbers also registered the names of well-known companies as domain names, with the intent of selling the names back to the companies when they finally woke up. While major companies, such as Panasonic and Hertz, were “victims” of these so-called cybersquatters, the majority of companies have taken to evicting cybersquatters through the courts.
One of the very first cybersquatters was American Dennis Toeppen. In the early 1990s he registered more than 200 domain names including Delta Airlines, Neiman Marcus and Eddie Bauer, and then demanded $13,000 for each domain name.
Some people purchased the domain names from him and went on their way, but others including Panavision sued. He lost the case and in 1999, US congress made it illegal to knowingly register websites containing trademarks with the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act.
Generally, a third party registers a domain they “believe” may be valuable, according to Sally Tomkotowicz, customer acquisition manager for the Register365domain registry.
However, she says there are instances where third parties have checked recent companies’ house registrations or trademark registrations and registered matching domains in the relevant geographic region.