Corporate Domain Management : Best Practice Guide
A complete best practice guide to Domain Name Management suitable for both small growing business and for an established enterprise with a large domain portfolio. Learn 6 steps to building a robust domain management policy, understand issues & risks associated with poor management, its impact on brand identity and reputation.
In the digital age that we are currently living in, having a strong online presence is a crucial factor in business success. Today, we turn to the internet first for any information about the products and services a business offers. The key element to making an online presence possible is a simple domain name. For this reason, domain names are treated as one of the most important business assets.
Companies with a global presence would often manage a large portfolio of 100s of domains under as many extensions. The complex process, if left neglected, can cause a number of issues like domain scarcity, hijacking, theft, to name a few. Poor domain name management can be detrimental to brand protection leading to larger problems like trademark infringement or cybersquatting.
The following 6 step best practice guide will help your business with building a robust domain name management policy and guideline to protect brand reputation and image and ensure a coherent approach enterprise-wide.
The first step to effective domain management is setting internal guidelines and policies.
What should you consider when developing a corporate Domain Management policy?
Depending on the business objectives and type, you will need to consider the following:
- Business type and objectives
- Trademark registration strategy
- Define the internal process
- Products and services
- Domain redirection process
- Registration & administrative contact details / WHOIS
- Public Relations activities
- Legal & IT activities
Work with business subsidiaries and local divisions to identify all domain names that were registered across the enterprise prior.
Consolidate and transfer all domain names to a single registrar. In this case, it is best to search for a domain registrar that offers as many domain extensions as possible.
A recommended practice is to register variations of your brand domain name.
Registering multiple variations of your domain can benefit your business in many ways from boosting visibility in SERPs for various competitive keywords to reducing loss of traffic due to misspellings.
Here are the types of domain name variations we recommend registering:
- Popular legacy generic Top-Level Domain (gTLD) extensions like .com, .net and .org
- Country code Top Level Domain(ccTLD) extensions like .de, .us etc
- Main brand and product domain names and brand slogans
- Common misspellings of your domain: brand.com, brands.com, brnds. com. Famous example: google.com also has gogle.com registered.
- Singular, plural, and hyphenated versions of your name and don’t forget your acronym. Acronyms are just as prone to being misspelt as your full domain name is.
- Industry-specific new generic Top-Level Domain (new gTLD).
- Business & Service: .associates, .business, .consulting, .coop, .gmbh, .group, .holdings, .icu, .inc, ltd, .sarl, .services, .solutions, .support
- Creative & Media: .actor, .art, .camera, .design, .photography, .ink, .productions, theater, .video
- E-Commerce & Retail: .blackfriday, .christmas, .click, .deals, .delivery, .link, sale, .store, .shopping
- Education & Religion: .academy, .college, .courses, .degree, .education, .institute, .mba, .school, .university
- Healthcare, Sports & Fitness: .care, .center, .clinic, .dental, .fitness, .healthcare, .health, .hospital, .rehab, .surgery, .vision, .yoga
- Hospitality, Events & Tourism: .cafe, .catering, .club, .cruises, .events, .florist, .flowers, .golf, .guide, .restaurant, .travel, .tours, .voyage, .wedding, .wine, .vin
- Human Resources & Recruitment: .career, .careers, .expert, jobs, .team, .training, work
- Legal & Financial Services: .accountant, .attorney, .bank, .broker, .capital, .cash, .credit, exchange, .finance, .fund, .insurance, .investments, .law, .lawyer, .legal, .loan, .mortgage, .tax
- Marketing, News & Communications: .ad, .agency, .blog, .chat, .digital, .email, .marketing, .media, .news, .online, .press, .promo, .reviews, .social,. tips
- Government & Non-For-Profit: .aero, .army, .charity, .community, .foundation, .ngo, .vote
- Real Estate, Home & Construction: .apartments, .casa, .cleaning, .condos, .construction, .estate, .immo, .lease, .maison, .mobi, .rent, .villas
- Eco, Energy & Environment: .bio, .earth, .eco, .energy, .green, .organic, .solar
- Technology: .ai, .app, .cloud, .dev, .download, .host, .io, .network, .site, .software, .storage, .systems, .tech, .technology, .website, .xyz
To learn more about steps and tips in defining corporate policy, consolidating domains and registering multiple domains, download our complete Best Practice Guide on Corporate Domain Name Management.
Businesses need to prioritise domain security to avoid issues like domain hijacking, theft and scams. There are a number of ways to improve your internal process:
- Opt-in for Domain Privacy: Your contact details will not be publicly available on the Whois database. It keeps your anonymity while retaining legal ownership of the domain name;
- Set up Two-step verification: Blocks unauthorised access. This also implies you need a solid password;
- Choose a more robust DNS solution: Professional DNS network ensures safer, faster performance with no redundancy and zero downtime;
- Improve overall visibility over access levels and rights;
- Ensure your site is protected with a professional SSL certificate;
- Other practices we recommend:
- Register your domain name for a longer period
- Use auto-renewal and backup payment details
- Always lock your domain names against registrar transfers
- Use the registry’s lock service for your most important domains
One of the common misconceptions is that domain name is the same as a trademark. But they are not.
Here are the key differences between domain name and trademark:
What is it?
Human-friendly forms of Internet addresses and are commonly used to find websites. An essential step towards getting your business online.
A sign capable of distinguishing the goods or services of one enterprise from those of other enterprises. Trademarks are protected by intellectual property rights.
What is the relationship between trademark and domain name?
Registering a domain name does not give you a trademark right to it and usually are not considered as IP rights.
Having a trademark application or registration does not automatically entitle you to domain name registration.
What is covered?
Domain names cover anything associated with the owner’s website.
A mark consisting of an Internet domain name is registrable as a trademark or service mark only if it functions as an identifier of the source of goods or services
Internet growth and domain name expansion provided a breeding ground for various illegal activities and conflicts related to trademark, IP and domain names.
- Trademark & Copyright Infringement
In some cases, the content and use of the domain name on third-party sites may dilute or tarnish the reputation of an existing trademark. Trademark owners often find their trademarks replicated on third-party sites confusing consumers and possibly used for counterfeited sales.
What should I do in case of trademark and copyright infringement?
Complaints regarding trademark or copyright infringement due to website content and domain names are outside of ICANN’s scope and authority. For these types of complaints, please refer to one of the options listed below:
- You may contact the domain registrant directly and attempt to settle your dispute amicably;
- If you can evidence the IP infringement you may be able to begin an administrative proceeding under the solution policy.
Domain management policy is necessary to avoid issues like cybersquatting.
What should I do if I’m a victim of cybersquatting?
Here are two solutions if you have been cybersquatting:
- Sue the cybersquatter to obtain the transfer of the litigious domain
- Use ICANN’s international arbitration systems:
Since 1999 WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center have been offering a number of domain name dispute resolution mechanisms.
- Trademark Clearinghouse (TMCH)
A rights protection mechanism (RPM) introduced by ICANN in 2013 to help trademark owners protect their rights during the expansion of new gTLDs in the DNS market.
The Trademark Clearinghouse mechanism functions as a central repository of trademark registrations. It authenticates information from rights holders and provides this information to registries and registrars.
What are the benefits of registering a trademark with the Clearinghouse?
- Access to Sunrise registration with new gTLD registries providing trademark owners with the opportunity to register domain names in a TLD before registration is generally available to the public;
- Priority access for Rights Holders to request domain names associated with the trademark(s);
- Trademark Claims Service
Protect your brand and register your trademark at the Trademark ClearingHouse.
- Domains Protected Marks List (DPML)
A rights protection mechanism (RPM) working with the Trademark Clearinghouse (TMCH). It provides brand owners with a means of protecting their trademark; including terms and phrases that contain their trademark. This protection works on all domain extensions from registries employing the DPML system. DPML sign-up gives trademark holders the right to block their trademarked names from registration across all of the TLDs supported by a registry. The trademark holder can submit an exact match and the entry will then be blocked from all registrations with new TLDs for that registry.
Learn more on DPML, how it works and if it is right for you.
AdultBlock, an RPM linked to TMCH, shields brand owners from adult content associations across domains. Prevents trademark association with explicit material, maintaining brand integrity and ensuring a family-friendly online presence.
GlobalBlock is a service that combines both DPML and AdultBlock to provide comprehensive protection across a wide range of TLDs, including both generic and adult-themed extensions. It's a bundled solution for trademark holders seeking extensive coverage.
If a dispute occurs between you and any third party over the registration and use of a domain name registered by you, you can choose one of the following resolution mechanisms.
- Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP)
What is UDPR?
A rights protection mechanism (RPM) working with the Trademark Clearinghouse (TMCH). It provides brand owners with a means of protecting their trademark; including terms and phrases that contain their trademark. This protection works on all domain extensions from registries employing the DPML system.
What are the key features of UDPR?
- Applicable to all gTLDs (.aero, .asia, .biz, .cat, .com, .coop, .info, .jobs, .mobi, .museum, .name, .net, .org, .pro, .tel and .travel), new gTLDs and certain ccTLDs;
- Remedy: Used when seeking to recover or cancel an allegedly cyber-squatted domain name;
- Length of process: Average of 2 months;
- Since its creation 20 years ago, the UDRP has so far been used by brand owners from around the world in over 45,000 cases.
- Uniform Rapid Suspension (URS)
What is URS?
A rights protection mechanism (RPM) introduced by ICANN in 2013 that complements the existing UDRP by offering a lower-cost, faster path to relief for rights holders experiencing the most clear-cut cases of infringement.
What are the key features of URS?
- It is limited to “new” generic top-level domains (New gTLDs) so excluding many common gTLDs like .com or .net;
- Immediate Remedy: Used when seeking to suspend an allegedly cyber-squatted domain name;
- Length of process: Average of 17 days;
- Contains an appeals system;
- Best when the infringement is clear.
“In October 2014 the domain names radisson.club and radissonblu. club were suspended using the URS. It was determined that these two domain names infringed on the trademark of Radisson hotels.”
Both UDRP & URS processes are similar and require a complainant to prove 3 elements. These are the deciding factors guiding the WIPO panellists:
- The domain name is confusingly similar to the complainant’s trademark;
- Registrant has no rights or legitimate interests in the domain name;
- The domain name has been registered and is being used in “bad faith”.
As a brand trademark owner, you should choose which procedure to go for based on the importance of the domain and whether or not you need to reclaim it.
When streamlining your domain management strategy, picking the right provider is crucial. Certain tools and services can significantly improve your process and reduce domain-related issues. When deciding on the domain provider, look for the following criteria:
- Flexible interface and data management:
- Ease and bulk transfers out/in;
- Bulk registrations, renewals, updates;
- Diversity of domain extensions available;
- Reporting and analytics;
- Customer support and account management;
- Secure and reliable provider in the market: ICANN accredited;
- Add-on domain management services: TMCH registrar services, brokerage and acquisition services, ease of sub-domain creation.
Companies globally continue to struggle with a number of issues arising from poor domain management. Lack of a corporate strategy or understanding of the domain management practices can take a toll on both the financial aspect of the business and the brand reputation. In the above document, we provide a complete guide to 6 steps in defining the Domain Management strategy to help businesses with streamlining and improving internal processes and reducing any associated risks.