Most companies need only a handful of Internet domain names to operate, but a lot of them buy up additional names to “play defense” and prevent competitors or disgruntled customers from hijacking their brand.
It’s common for companies to not only register the standard “.com,” “.net” and “.org” domains, but also:
- Register the “.biz,” “.info” and “.us” extensions;
- Add common country-code extensions such as “.uk,” “.ca,” “.co,” etc.;
- Block their company name with the “.xxx” extension (which can usually be done for a one-time fee);
- Buy common misspellings, which can be used by competitors; and
- Buy common “gripe site” domains, such as the company name followed by “sucks.”
How far you should go in this regard is a business decision; you have to weigh the cost of the domain registrations against the potential for mischief.
Of course, if you’re going to register alternative web addresses, it’s critical to calendar to renew these addresses. For instance, when Newt Gingrich was running for president, his main campaign website was “Newt.org.” He also owned, but accidentally failed to renew, the address “NewtGingrich.com” – with the result that it was registered by a pro-Democratic political action committee that set up a site to parody his campaign.
What happens if someone misuses a related domain name in order to hurt your business? It’s possible to file a complaint under the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy or the Anti-Cybersquatting Consumer Protection Act. In general, doing so requires you to prove that the offender doesn’t have a legitimate interest in the name, or is using it in bad faith.
However, this isn’t always easy. If someone is ripping off your brand name to sell fake Viagra, that’s one thing, but a complaint website or a parody website could possibly amount to a protected expression of opinion.