April 29, 2014 Cardinal Acres Web Development

Cybersquatting” is the practice of buying a domain name of a trademarked service with the intent of reselling it at a profit. Unfortunately, there are many individuals and companies who profit from this practice and one of my clients was recently a victim.

These days, your domain name is a major part of the identity of your product or service. Having an easy to remember URL for your website that also corresponds to your company name can make a huge difference in your success. You should carefully consider the domain name that you will use and make sure that you register the domain personally to protect your future rights. It is a good practice to register your domain separately from your web hosting provider. For this reason, Cardinal Acres Web Development always has our clients register their domain name themselves.

There is a domain name dispute resolution process for situations where a cybersquatter has registered a domain that you can prove legal rights over. However, one usually needs to have a registered trademark on a word or phrase used in the domain name to succeed using this process. Applying for a trademark can cost several hundred dollars or more and may not be cost-effective for small businesses. Even if you have the relevant trademark, domain name disputes will likely cost several thousands of dollars to pursue.

For these reasons, many cybersquatters ask only a few hundred dollars to transfer a domain name knowing that this cost is much less than the cost of going through the official domain name resolution process. Fortunately, there are alternatives to the official process for domain disputes. The downside is that it will take longer (perhaps, much longer) to regain control of a domain name.

Your first option is to wait until the domain name expires. You can determine the expiration date of any registered domain but doing a WHOIS search. There are several websites that provide online WHOIS searches; simply Google “whois” for a list. Once you know the expiration date of the domain you can then plan to register the domain yourself after it expires. Note, however, that it can be as much as 30 to 45 days after the official expiration date before the domain becomes available for registration again. In many cases, after a owner grace period, many domain registrars will hold a domain name auction for the expired domain leading to the 30 to 45 day delay before general availability of the domain name.

The second option is to “backorder” a domain name. This is the best option to pursue for domains in which you have a high degree of interest. Backordering a domain is usually best done via the domain registrar since, as I mentioned above, most registrar’s hold an auction for expired domain names which is usually limited to their own customers before releasing the domain to be openly registered by other registrars. Again, there are many domain backorder services which can be found via a Google search. Some services are free until they have successfully obtained the requested domain while others charge an up-front fee regardless of success. Many times, it is to your advantage to use several of these services to maximize your chances at actually getting control of a domain.

The lesson here is that keeping and maintaining control of your domain name is paramount. You should never let anyone register a domain name on your behalf. Doing so puts you in potential danger of losing control of your domain name and having to deal with an unscrupulous company or individual wanting to extort money or services from you.