Remember back in the “early” days of the modern Internet (let’s say the mid 1990′s) when the only domain names out there ended in .com, .net, .org, and .gov? As a business owner with a web presence this kept things relatively simple. You registered your .com and perhaps a .net and you were good to go. In subsequent years ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) has introduced several more top-level domains (or TDL’s for short): .biz, .us, and most recently .xxx (take a good guess what those websites would contain).
I came across a PC Magazine article this week (Are You Ready for .anything? Generic Internet Domains on the Way) discussing generic top-level domains. According to the article, representatives of various industry groups will attempt to convince lawmakers that the ICANN is “ramming through” what might be called “dot anything.” What this means is that there would be the opportunity to register generic domains such as .airplane, .bank, .baseball or whatever else you can think of with Latin letters.
As a large corporation capable of forking over the nearly $200,000 registration fee, who is to say that General Motors couldn’t register .gm? Or, as the article points out, McDonalds buying .mcdonalds?
For the small business owner (like myself), the potential for endless top-level domains brings on a larger headache than it would a benefit. To demonstrate my point, one of my clients contacted me recently with a question about his website’s domain name. His question: “What can I do to prevent someone else from buying my domain name in a different country?” My response: “You would have to buy it yourself.”
That’s the sad truth for businesses that have a distinct brand and online presence and want to protect it from others who register similar domain names. To spend money on domain name registration with multiple top-level domains (not to mention registering similar sounding or similarly spelled domains which could grow the list exponentially) could become very cost prohibitive. Add into the mix a batch of new generic top-level domains and the problem gets worse for the little guy. For the big guys it gives them the chance to solidify their brand online even more.
For small businesses that are concerned about dilution of their brand by others using a similar domain name, one of the best ways to cover yourself in this instance is to have your business name federally registered as a trademark. It just so happens that I know the best person to help you out here (my close friend and client Morris Turek at yourtrademarkattorney.com). It may not be prudent to buy every single domain name you can think of, but it would be wise to purchase a handful of the most important ones and to seek federal trademark registration of your business name for the peace-of-mind and protections that come along with it.