I get an email or phone call from a nervous friend, entrepreneur or small business owner about once a week telling me they’ve received a notice that someone is trying to register their trademark or company name as a domain name. “What should I do about this?” I get asked in a panic.
Anyone who has registered a domain name has probably received one of these notices before.
These notices typically appear in two forms:
The Scare Tactic
Sender: Usually an Asian or European entity, and more recently a entities from Las Vegas and other U.S. cities.
Some of these happen to be domain registrars; others don’t appear to be a valid company at all.
Method: Typically by email.
Message: “We have received an application for a domain name which is similar to one you own or is one of your trademarks, so we thought we would let you know so you have the first chance to register it through our company, before the a cybersquatter gets their hands on it”.
Purpose: A clever marketing ploy using a scare tactic to fool you into registering domain names.
The transfer notice disguised as invoice from a Domain Registry
Sender: Private companies named “The Domain Registry of…” a certain country.
(Note that the Canadian Internet Registration Authority of CIRA is the official Registry of the .CA domain name.)
Method: Typically by snail mail. The mail looks like an official invoice from an official department of the government.
Message: Renew your domain registration or it will expire in the near future. It’s easy, just fill out the term of renewal, your billing information and sign it. The catch is that this deceptive “renewal form” is actually an unsolicited domain name transfer agreement that can result in the transfer of your domain away from your registrar of record to a registrar that engages in deceitful business practices.
Purpose: A practice called “Domain Slamming” that attempts to trick domain name registrants into transferring their domain(s) to a different registrar.
Tips on How to Protect Yourself Against Domain Slamming or Aggressive Marketing
- Read the fine print – when you receive any notification, make sure you read it carefully. Make sure you aren’t transferring your brands or intellectual property to somewhere you don’t want it to be.
- Do your research – Does the company you are receiving the notice from exist? Are they a legitimate company? A good place to start your research is the Better Business Bureau http://www.bbb.org. If you receive a notice that you suspect might be deceptive or fraudulent, make sure you report it to the BBB.
- Check the WHOIS record of the domain – Do you know who your current registrar is for your existing domains? If you receive a renewal notice for your domain, check your domain against the WHOIS system at http://www.webnames.ca/whois.aspx. The WHOIS result will show your current registrar of record.
- Use a Domain Privacy Service – Add a Domain Privacy Service to your domain. A private registration can help to protect you from spam, telemarketers, and identity and domain theft. For example, with the Webnames.ca privacy service, our registrants receive only official correspondence from Webnames.ca and the Registries – all other companies are blocked out.
- File a Dispute – If someone is actually infringing on your trademark you can always submit a domain dispute through ICANN’s Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy or for .CA domains, CIRA’s Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy.