Brand Protection Through Domain Registration
In terms of domain name registration, there was a time when you only needed a couple of domains to protect your brand: mybrand.com and mybrand.co.nz.
Today, there are literally hundreds of top level domain (TLD) options available, often resulting in confusion when considering which domain names to secure.
As a general rule, it's beneficial to register "mybrand" across all the common TLDs in your marketplace.
Local NZ Brands
If your brand services the NZ market, then we recommend you secure all of the common business domain names for your brand name if possible. Eg:
- mybrand.nz ... and maybe
This will prevent anyone else from trading online with a domain name very similar to yours. It’s likely that you’d only point the primary domain names (mybrand.co.nz and mybrand.nz) to your website and use it for your email, with the others registered simply to protect them from being used by others and causing confusion in the marketplace.
If your brand is also located in other markets then the ultimate choice is mybrand.com. However, if you don’t already have it, the .com TLD may be difficult to secure. Although it's definitely worth a try: I once purchased a preferred .com domain name from another party for a couple of hundred dollars. However, you may also be asked to pay tens of thousands. One client was faced with a $70,000 cost to secure the .com domain name that they wanted. Whilst annoying, if your brand name is important and valuable to you then it may be worth it in the long term.
Aside from the .com domain name, it's also useful to protect your brand in the various territories in which you operate. For example, you may operate in Australia, USA and Canada. In this case, you should secure mybrand.com.au, .com and .ca.
Domains with .com.au are well protected by the Australian authorities. A valid Australian Business Number (ABN) is required, together with proof that the business is a legitimate concern. Here at Terabyte, we couldn’t register www.terabyte.com.au (owned by someone else) so went through the process of registering terabyteinteractive.com.au to give ourselves an Australian presence should we need one in future.
As well as protecting your brand name online in these regions, this will allow you to easily provide region-specific websites in future. You could argue that this is not necessary, that you can have different regional content driven from one central TLD, eg Nike.
This is true, but would Nike let anyone else have a website using (for example) www.nike.nz? No way! This URL doesn’t point to a website, but they still own it, so no-one else can.
By Owning the Domain Name do I Protect my Brand Name?
Not entirely. A trademark is still required to fully protect your brand. This is a separate issue which should be explored with IP specialists.
The purpose of owning the significant TLDs for your domain name is to stop someone easily misusing it. For example, in 2001 the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron, then holders of the Americas Cup, failed to renew their rnzys.com domain name which was then registered by a Canadian for just US$35 and featured pornographic content. It was eventually purchased back; we believe the amount required was substantial.
The most common problem
We’ve had a few cases over the years where a client’s website and email has stopped working because they failed to renew their domain name (nb: we were not handling this on their behalf). Usually there’s a waiting period before it is offered to the market for someone else to register and a quick online payment fixes it.
To avoid this, ensure the email address for your domain name billing is not attached to an individual, but a generic name that automatically goes to a number of people. For example, instead of firstname.lastname@example.org it should go to email@example.com: email to this address should be regularly monitored.
In summary, it's worth taking a little time to ensure you've registered all the TLD's you need and that you have a process in place for domain renewal.