Quick tip for pro­tect­ing your brand — domain names

With con­sumers rely­ing more and more on the abil­i­ty to research and buy prod­ucts and ser­vices online, retail­ers are under con­sid­er­able pres­sure to recon­fig­ure their busi­ness plans in response.

Online shop­ping is now main­stream and busi­ness­es must max­imise their online pres­ence in order to com­pete effec­tive­ly. Domain names are a crit­i­cal part of this pic­ture as a domain name can sig­nif­i­cant­ly broad­en a brand’s vis­i­bil­i­ty online.

With­out a domain name, a busi­ness will strug­gle to effec­tive­ly pro­mote itself on the Inter­net. Reg­is­ter­ing a domain name, togeth­er with a trade mark and busi­ness name should be the first pri­or­i­ty for a new busi­ness as it can dif­fer­en­ti­ate a busi­ness from its com­peti­tors and pro­tect that busi­ness’ brand online.

A domain name is a unique name that cor­re­sponds with an Inter­net Pro­to­col address. The right to use a domain name is del­e­gat­ed by domain name reg­is­trars, which are accred­it­ed by the Inter­net Cor­po­ra­tion for Assigned Names and Num­bers (ICANN), the organ­i­sa­tion that coor­di­nates these unique iden­ti­fiers across the world.

Domain name reg­is­trars usu­al­ly charge a fee for the ser­vice of del­e­gat­ing a domain name to a user and pro­vid­ing a default set of name servers. While reg­is­trants of domain names are often referred to as own­ers, unlike the rights grant­ed in respect of trade mark reg­is­tra­tion, reg­is­ter­ing a domain name does not give a per­son any pro­pri­etary rights in that domain name. For exam­ple, if you reg­is­ter a domain name, you do not auto­mat­i­cal­ly have the right to use that name as a trade mark. Rather a domain name reg­is­trant is only grant­ed an exclu­sive right to use the domain name for the peri­od for which that per­son is reg­is­tered as the reg­is­trant. We advise our clients that it is always prefer­able to reg­is­ter a trade mark in respect of the goods and ser­vices asso­ci­at­ed with their busi­ness, in addi­tion to reg­is­ter­ing the domain name if the par­tic­u­lar mark is eli­gi­ble to be registered.

Most reg­is­trars offer to auto­mat­i­cal­ly renew your domain name. Auto-renew­al is a con­ve­nient way that reg­is­trants can avoid expos­ing their domain name to reg­is­tra­tion by oth­er com­pet­ing busi­ness. We rec­om­mend that clients select this ser­vice because auto-renew­al will also help to pre­vent the expi­ra­tion of oth­er ser­vices asso­ci­at­ed with that busi­ness’ domain name such as web­site host­ing and email ser­vices. Ser­vice inter­rup­tions of this kind can cause sig­nif­i­cant harm to a busi­ness and con­sumer con­fi­dence in that busi­ness and brand.

If you are think­ing of start­ing a busi­ness or you have any exist­ing busi­ness that is about to go online and you would like to dis­cuss how to best pro­tect your brand online con­tact Swaab Attorneys.