Defensive Domain Name Registrations – What You Need To Know
Virtuoso Vigilance: Protecting a brand online starts with a trade mark... and continues with defensive domain name registrations.
by Kostas Retzopoulos
Part of our Virtuoso Vigilance brand protection series. For more information about our Virtuoso Vigilance complete brand protection solution, get in touch with our team here.
In our recent webinars, we focused on the importance of protecting your domain names to actively protect your brand(s) and strengthen your intellectual property. It is a subject that I am always keen on talking about, as it historically raises questions (as well as anxiety!) from most domain name and brand protection managers.
In the heart of every domain name, portfolio management lies your registration strategy.
I know that it can be a headache from my personal experience! The goal of brand protection managers is to register those domain names that will protect the brand against 3rd-party bad-faith registrations.
But how many registrations are enough? Where do I begin? When do I stop? How often do I have to register new domains? And how much will it cost?
All of the above are legitimate questions, which I also had to figure out when managing domain portfolios.
The shift online
When I joined Virtuoso Legal, I had seen evidence that law firms – big or small – were already being targeted (or are potentially targeted) by squatters and bad actors that took advantage of the sudden and rapid increase of Internet use for... pretty much everything!
Working remotely, doing business, shopping, ordering food - the list goes on. . Conventional and offline businesses had to swiftly relocate to the web in order to remain active, relevant and most of all, profitable.
This didn’t exclude law firms, which had to repurpose their operations for an exclusively online business existence, one which would offer the same services, client care, and positive experiences.
Bad actors, adapting
Bad actors and opportunists have been watching. Within their grasp was not just your typical, good old e-commerce businesses but countless law and other professional services organizations, that offered quick and easy illicit profits if anyone could squat on their names and brands unbeknownst to the brand owner.
According to the World Trademark Review “ As domain names continue to grow in importance, they draw the attention of those that seek to take unfair advantage of these valuable assets”.
The scammers’ plan is simple and is always the same: how many available registrations - from .com and .co.uk to those suspiciously popular ccTLDs like .co, .tv, .io, .tk and .uk- are there for any brand that can be grabbed in a blink of an eye, with petty cash and little effort?
The answer is “too many”!
Opportunists are professionals
Opportunists are professionals, like you and me, who make money by simply spotting these gaps in the registration strategy of brand and domain name portfolios. 3rd party unauthorised registrations are used for spamming, phishing, exploitation of unsuspicious clients (and brand owners) and finally profit loss for the brand owner and loss of client trust for the brand.
My opinion has always been that there is no price for trust or brand reputation. Which I hope would make the seemingly difficult decision to spend a bit more money for your brand’s defence much easier.
If it is that simple for the bad actor, shouldn’t it be as simple for the brand owner and the brand protection manager? Yes, it is. Take for example Virtuoso Legal: we own the .com, under which we host their website, content, email, and client enquiries systems. I followed the simple strategy of closing the big gaps first: .co.uk, .co, .legal, .online, .org, .info and a few very obvious common misspellings. This group of new registrations formed the first line of defence against scammers and secured the online real estate that Virtuoso Legal needed to designate in order to the brand itself and of course their clients.
This process should be repeated every 6 months as part of the registration strategy. Within the 6-month period, new trends, as well as new threats, will emerge.
These trends will show me what my next group of defensive registrations should be.
It may sound like "Catch 22" and admittedly I may never get it right or the scammer may get there before me. But the plan is to make it as hard for them as possible giving them as limited options as possible to grab a domain name in a variation and in an extension, I may have not predicted or thought it would not be an issue.
After all, if you received an email from email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org would you consider it legitimate? I hope not!
This is something that we also replicate for our clients as part of the Virtuoso Vigilance complete brand protection solution. Get in touch with us by clicking the button below to find out more about that.
If you are scratching your head about how to go on about your domain name registration strategy or you need help right-size your portfolio, get in touch as we’d be very happy to help.
Corporate registrars have great tools to help you manage your portfolio, provided it’s worth several thousand pounds and it is large in size. If you are a new or a small/medium brand owner, however, who uses a popular commercial registrar, the burden of figuring out how to grow and protect your portfolio falls on your shoulders and I feel your pain. We are here to help!
- Protecting domains is more important than ever, with a continued shift online.
- Bad actors are adapting to this shift and are acting quickly to secure available ccTLDs where opportunity allows.
- Bad actors whilst opportunistic are professionals - don't underestimate them!
- The solution is simple: a systematic domain registration strategy that is regularly reviewed to analyze risk and close any gaps.(We can help you with that!)