At a recent panel discussion, the IP counsel of a major corporation recounted that he had done an inventory of his company’s domain names and found over 5,000 of them. He culled the list to the ones that made business (and legal) sense to have and got rid of the rest, saving what must have been thousands of dollars – he didn’t say how much – a year.
With the explosion of the Internet, and the cybersquatting that has come along with it, it has become the standard practice to register domain names defensively. Thus, businesses not only will register their domains and important trademarks with an ever-increasing variety of gTLDs but also almost every conceivable variation of the domain or mark as part of a string, or “typo squatting.” The domain registrations expand further with each domain name dispute proceeding (UDRP), cease and desist letter, etc., with businesses choosing to resolve perceived infringements or conflicts by the transfer of the objectionable domain to them. The upshot is what the panel speaker discovered: Businesses have scores, if not hundreds, of domain name registrations that are not used for any business or marketing purpose. And these registrations all come with periodic fees, many of which count against the legal budget.
There are other problems with this proliferation of domain name registrations. Often there is anything but uniformity, in terms of who is identified as the registrant, administrative contact and technical contact (or even the server), to the point that a business may have no idea of all of the domain names it owns. And this says nothing of the headache a business will face if its key domains are registered in the name of an employee, or identify an administrative contact, who has left the company.
The answer to all of this is a domain name audit. Using various tools, it is possible to determine the domain names a business owns, even if they aren’t in the company’s name. Considered, strategic decisions can then be made as to which domains it makes sense for a business to keep. Even from a defensive perspective, it may no longer make sense to pursue the kitchen-sink domain strategy. Businesses are finding SEO (search engine optimization) a far more targeted and effective strategy against cyberpiracy and typo squatting. The same domain name tools can be used not only to discover what potentially could become problematic domains but also (through traffic analysis and the like) to determine whether a domain name merits any action at all.
Domain name registrations that the business wants to keep can be made uniform. They even can become a previously undiscovered asset to the company’s bottom line, making it more attractive to possible investors or buyers.
In short, your domain name audit could turn legal budget dollars flowing out into a positive impact on your company’s bottom line.
Marsha G. Gentner, Senior Counsel in Dykema’s Intellectual Property Group. email@example.com
Published November 28, 2015.