SPECIAL REPORT: Have you protected your domain from cybersquatters?

Business is stolen from successful web sites everyday. Did you know that anyone with $35 can register a variation of your web site name and set up shop in about five minutes? No ownership checks or trademark searches are done at the time of registration. Since most registration services are automated, even the most obviously malicious names are approved with a click of the mouse.

Cybersquatting, the act of registering a name in bad faith, has become one of the major problems facing businesses on the Internet. Although the term Cybersquatting was originally used to describe the act of registering another's trademarked name, the term is commonly used to describe many different forms of bad faith registrations.

In order to protect yourself, you should be aware of the following forms of cybersquatting and domain misappropriation.

1. 'The Sneaky Competitor': One of your competitors sets up a web site using a variation of your domain name in order to lure your customers away. Since URLs can be hard to remember or deduce, your competitor may be be able to lure away both existing customers and new prospects. This can cost thousands in lost business.

2. 'The Porn Funnel': A variation of your domain name is used to 'funnel' traffic into a pornographic web site. Operators of some adult web sites use almost any method to attract new visitors. If one of these 'porn pirates' registers a variation of your domain name, customers who mistype your URL will be transported to a pornographic web page.

3. 'The Employee Hate Site': A disgruntled past (or present) employee reserves a variation of your company name to post company secrets or gripes. Registering domain variations cannot prevent critical sites, but it can minimize the incentive to create these sites and the reduce the damage they can cause (a critical site which is not found easily is less damaging).

4. 'The 'Sucks' Site': Similar to #3, an unhappy customer reserves YourCompanySucks.com in order to post complaints about your business. This has become a virtual internet phenomenon. In fact many savvy web users make it a habit to see if a company 'sucks' web site exists before buying a product on-line. For example, if John is about to buy a new pool table from 'coolpooltable.com', he first checks to see if 'coolpooltablesucks.com' exists and contains any negative feedback.

5. 'The Ransom Artist': Someone reserves a variation of your company name before you can and then attempts to sell it back to you for an outrageous amount. Fear of being victimized by the above scenarios causes many companies to spend thousands to recover names that were overlooked when they initially registered their domain name.

Can this really happen? Is this legal?

Yes, it can and does happen everyday. Is it legal? Depending on the situation, site owners may have legal recourse (e.g. trademark infringement lawsuits or arbitration). However, even when a cybersquatter is breaking the law, it can be time-consuming and expensive for a site owner to win a legal judgment, especially if the cybersquatter is located in a different country. In some circumstances, it is possible to reclaim names through domain arbitration, however this can cost thousands and can take many months. Full blown domain related law suits can take years and cost tens of thousands of dollars.

The easiest (and cheapest) way to prevent most cybersquatting is to register a few basic variations of your company name before the damage is done.

Which names should I register?

1. COM/NET/BIZ: Hopefully, you have already registered the .COM version of your company name. To be safe, register the .NET and .BIZ variations. Some companies also register the .ORG and .INFO variations for additional safety.

2. Hyphenation: If your company name has more than one word in it, register it both with and without a dash. (e.g. usair.com and us-air.com)

3. Singular/Plural: If your name lends itself to it, register its singular and plural versions. (e.g. fordtruck.com and fordtrucks.com)

4. Common Misspellings: If your name can be easily misspelled, register common misspellings (e.g. volkswagon.com and volkswagen.com)

5. And finally, the juvenile sounding but damaging 'sucks' variation: Many experienced internet users routinely type in the 'sucks' variation of a company name on their browser to find complaints about a company. Most savvy companies now make it standard procedure to register this name before a vindictive person does. (e.g. verizonsucks.com)

Isn't this going to get expensive?

Registering 'protective' domain names is now becoming a necessary and expected cost for doing business on the Internet. Luckily the domain registration industry has been recently de-regulated. Domains which have traditionally cost $70 to register can now be registered for about $20. A small price to pay to help protect against the time and expense involved pursuing a cybersquatter.

Have you protected yourself from cybersquatters?

By taking just a few minutes now, you can help prevent costly and potentially embarrassing cybersquatting incidents from occurring...

Now that you know the basics tactics used by cybersquatters, you may want to make a list of your domain names and use the following worksheet to see if you are protected.

 

 Cybersquatter Protection Worksheet
   
 

 Are you protected?
 Basic domain name  
 .net variation  
 .biz variation  
 hyphenated  
 common misspellings  
 companysucks variation  

 

Where to register your domain name variations?

You can use any active registrar to register additional variations of your domain name. We use and recommend Register.com. In our opinion, they offer an excellent mix of advanced features, reliability and knowledgeable support. If you use their service, be sure to take advantage of their free URL forwarding feature. This will allow enable you to link each of your domain name variations to your correct web site without paying any additional hosting fees.

Due to our high volume, we have secured a discounted rate of $20/yr with Register.com This special discount is available to all BetterWhois visitors via the following link:

http://www.regdiscount.com

 


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