Corporate Domain Name Management: Best Practice Guide [2020]

A complete best practice guide to Corporate Domain Name Management suitable for both small growing business and for an established enterprise with a large domain portfolio. Learn 8 steps to building a robust domain management policy, understand issues & risks associated with poor management, its impact on brand identity and reputation.

by Tonia - 26.10.2020

Overview

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 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 8 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.

  1. Define corporate policy
  2. Consolidate your domains
  3. Register multiple variations
  4. Register mandatory brand domain names
  5. Register more than one extension
  6. Improve security practices
  7. Understand relationship between domain name, trademark and intellectual property (IP)
  8. Choose the right domain provider
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Step 1 Define a corporate policy

The first step to effective domain management is setting internal guidelines and policies. Depending on the business objectives and type, you will need to consider the following:

  • Business type and objectives: Domain Management Policy needs to align with business goals and objectives, brand & marketing plans, growth and expansion strategy.
  • Trademark registration strategy: Legal department should advise on what trademarks have been registered or will be registered.
  • Define the internal process: Who will be responsible for domain management, how domains are modified and when domains are managed (i.e. new product launch, new brand launch, mergers & acquisitions).
  • Products and services: Keep a list of brands to be registered regardless of geographic location. If you are a global brand with franchised locations, define policy for sub-brands registration.
  • Domain redirection process: Define policy on the redirection process i.e. will ccTLD point to the main corporate site?
  • Registration & administrative contact details / WHOIS: Have clear instructions on contact details to be used at registration including owners details, contact person for technical and financial requests, email address used.
  • Public Relations activities: Prior to any Public Relations or media activities and mentioning new product/service launches, ensure relevant domain names are registered. This will prevent any opportunistic registrations.
  • Legal & IT activities: Define legal & IT process and key steps in case of any domain-related issues and disputes.

Step 2 Consolidate your domains

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.

First steps:

  • Compare trademark registrations and trademarks in progress;
  • Review domain names that don’t align with company guidelines & policies;
  • Register missing domain names as per the guideline;
  • Update and align WHOIS contact details;
  • Setup auto-renewal for each domain whenever possible.

Download our complete Best Practice Guide on Corporate Domain Name Management (English Version)

Step 3 Register multiple variations

A recommended practice is to register variations of your brand domain name.

  • Register the most common misspellings of your domain: brand.com, brands.com,brnds.com. Those misspellings could cause both financial damage and reputational risk. This will help to avoid malpractices like typo-squatting, one of the most common forms of cybersquatting. Famous example: Google.com also has gogle.com registered.
  • Register 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.

Step 4 Register mandatory brand domain names

Start by registering all domains names in line with your business strategy and brand like

  • Popular legacy generic Top-Level Domain (gTLD) extensions like .com, .net and .org: managed by Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN);
  • Registering country code Top Level Domain (ccTLD) extension like .de, .us etc.: administered independently by nationally designated registration authorities;
  • Registering the main brand and product domain names;
  • Registering slogans.

Step 5 Register more than one extension

Consider buying domain extensions relevant to your industry and be informed of the new generic Top-Level Domain (new gTLD).

Knowing when new TLDs become available for pre-order and registration means that you can plan ahead and decide which could be interesting for you.

Additional domain extensions by the industry:

Business & Service

.business, .company, .ceo, .consulting, .enterprises, .global, .group, .holdings,.icu, .inc, .industries, .limited , .services, .solutions, .support, .ventures

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, .ppress, .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

Keep in mind the keywords that your customers type in their browser when searching for your website.

Step 6 Improve security practices

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

Step 7 Understand relationship between domain name, trademark and intellectual property (IP)

Difference Domain Name vs Trademark

One of the common misconceptions is that business name or domain name is the same as trademark. But they are not.

Domain Name

Trademark

Human-friendly forms of Internet addresses and are commonly used to find web sites. 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.

Registered on a first-come, first-served basis.

Registered on a first-come, first-served basis.

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 the domain name registration.

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

Domain name dispute processes :

  • gTLDs: Whois domain name registration record and Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP);
  • new gTLDS: Uniform Rapid Suspension System (URS).

Trademark disputes generally follow local legislation.

Trademark & IP issues related to domain names

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.

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:

  1. You may contact the domain registrant directly and attempt to settle your dispute amicably;
  2. If you can evidence the IP infringement you may be able to begin an administrative proceeding under the solution policy.

Cybersquatting

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:

  1. Sue the cybersquatter to obtain the transfer of the litigious domain
  2. Use ICANN’s international arbitration systems:

Domain name dispute resolution mechanisms

Since 1999 WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center have been offering a number of the domain name dispute resolution mechanisms.

Preventive means of actions

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.

Benefits of registering a trademark with the Clearinghouse include:

  • Access to Sunrise registration with new gTLD registries:
  • The Sunrise Period is a pre-launch phase providing trademark owners 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: Notification to a Rights Holder after registration, allowing for immediate action if the domain registered is infringing rights.

The first step is to register your trademark at the Trademark ClearingHouse. Domain registrars, as accredited TMCH agents, offer full TMCH service from application to ongoing management. Each new domain extension opens with a Sunrise/ Trademark holders period. If you want to register the domain name matching your trademark, you’ll need to have your trademark registered with the TMCH.

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. More on how DPML works.

Defensive means of actions

Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP)

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.

Key features of UDRP:

  • 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;
  • The policy between a registrar and its customer;
  • Remedy: Used when seeking to recover or cancel an allegedly cyber-squatted domain name;
  • Length of process: Average of 2 months;
  • Subject to filing fees;
  • The decision is at the discretion of the registry;
  • 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)

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.

Key features of URS:

  • It is limited to “new” generic top-level domains (New gTLDs) so excluding many common gTLDs like .com or .net;
  • The policy between a registrar and its customer;
  • Immediate Remedy: Used when seeking to suspend an allegedly cyber-squatted domain name;
  • Length of process: Average of 17 days;
  • Subject to filing fees (much lower than UDRP);
  • 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. Be aware that any subsequent court decision will prevail over the UDRP & URS decisions. If you have not registered your brand as a trademark but still consider yourself a victim of cybersquatting, you still have a chance of winning your case. You will have to prove that you are using your domain name as a mark to distinguish your goods or services with goodwill.

Step 8 Choose the right domain provider

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.

Conclusion

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 8 steps in defining the Domain Management strategy to help businesses with streamlining and improving internal processes and reducing any associated risks.



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