Did you know that if you don’t make an effort to protect your brand name (which may or may not be your business name) and embark on a domain name strategy, you could lose your rights to trademark it or to enforce it once it’s been trademarked?
Many businesses often overlook this crucial aspect, focusing solely on building their brand’s reputation.
That means you might not be able to prevent others in the future from profiting from your brand or confusing consumers about your brand. This can lead to diluted brand value and potential revenue losses.
Steps to Protect Your Brand and Domain
The first step to protect your brand is to federally trademark it, so you can legally enforce your rights to it. This process involves more than just registration; it requires ongoing vigilance to detect and address any potential infringement.
Trademarking serves as a legal barrier, granting you exclusive rights to operate, promote, and distribute products or services under your brand name.
Another critical step is developing and implementing a domain name strategy. This extends beyond merely owning a website. It’s about securing relevant domain names and variations to prevent misuse and confusion.
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Proactively managing your online identity helps in preserving your brand’s integrity and reputation in the digital space.
Additionally, consider acquiring common misspellings of your brand name to redirect traffic to your legitimate site, further protecting against potential cybersquatting.
Understanding Domain Name Strategy
When conducting online business, it’s imperative to have a domain name strategy to safeguard your brand’s virtual footprint effectively.
What is a Domain Name Strategy?
The purpose of a domain name strategy is to proactively protect your brand online by reducing the chance for others to use your brand name in their online activities, specifically in their website URLs. This strategy encompasses not only ‘.com’ domains but also other extensions.
The Importance of Broad Domain Coverage
For example, Nike owns Nike.com. Imagine if another company began selling sportswear at Nikes.com or Nike.biz. The similarities could mislead consumers, leading them to believe they’re engaging with the original brand.
In an era where online scams and counterfeit products are rampant, maintaining brand authenticity is paramount. Only diligent consumers who research thoroughly would discern the difference.
Brands must, therefore, be vigilant in preventing misrepresentation or imitation online.
Enforcing Trademark Rights
Of course, Nike would want those confusing sites taken down, and since Nike is a trademarked name, the Nike Company can enforce its trademark rights and require that the confusing sites be removed from the Web.
This approach is not just about preventing lost sales but also about preserving the trust and authenticity of the brand in the eyes of consumers.
Domain Strategy for Small Businesses
Small businesses should follow a similar path. First, trademark your brand name. Second, implement your domain name strategy. Third, monitor your brand online (and offline), and fourth, enforce your rights to it under U.S. trademark laws.
Simplifying Strategy for Smaller Brands
A domain name strategy can be very complex. While large companies like Nike might own hundreds of domain names, small businesses, which often have limited budgets, should focus on securing key domain variations.
It’s crucial to take at least the basic steps to protect your brand’s online identity and presence. This proactive approach is essential in building and maintaining the integrity and recognition of your brand in the digital marketplace.
How to Develop a Domain Name Strategy
Following are five essential first steps you should take to protect your brand with a small business domain name strategy:
If you do nothing else, be sure to register domains that include your brand name with the most common extensions, including .com, .net, .org, .us., .info, and .biz.
Common Misspellings and Obvious Variations
Register domain names that include your brand name with obvious mistakes or variations using the most common extensions referenced in no. 1 above.
For example, if your jewelry brand is Snowcone, register snowcone.com and snocone.com as well as snocone.net, snocone.biz, and so on.
It’s also important to register domain names that are phonetically equivalent to your brand name.
For example, a company with the brand name WearsLikeNew would register WearsLikeNew.com and WaresLikeNew.com using the common extensions.
This is particularly important for brands that include numbers. A brand like 4TheWin.com should also be registered as ForTheWin.com and FourTheWin.com using the common extensions.
Plural and Singular Variations
If your brand name is singular, register the plural version as a domain name, too. If your brand name is plural, secure the singular domain name as well.
For example, InnovationToProfits.com is also registered as InnovationsToProfit.com. These variations should be secured for each common extension.
The final step in the most basic domain name strategy is registering hyphenated versions of your brand name.
For example, CircleLegal.com should also be registered as Circle-Legal.com. As with the four steps above, do this for each common extension.
Below is a handy comparison table illustrating various domain name variation types and their corresponding examples for clearer understanding:
|Example Brand Name
|Numbers in Brand Name
|Plural and Singular Variations
Protect Your Brand and Business
With the introduction of hundreds of new top-level domain extensions this year, including the controversial .sucks domain, and anticipating the introduction of hundreds more in the near future, it’s critical that you develop and implement a domain name strategy to protect your brand and business.
The notion that a similar domain won’t emerge or impact your business is risky. You might not think anyone will ever launch a website using a domain name that is similar to your brand name. Similarly, the assumption that such a site won’t sell products or services similar to yours and that consumers won’t be confused about the authentic site is a gamble.
However, this kind of situation occurs in businesses like yours every day, and I have the client list to prove it.
Don’t put your business and brand at risk. Instead, take the necessary steps to protect your brand today proactively. Trust me, acting now to safeguard your brand is far more cost-effective and efficient than rectifying issues later.
Potential Consequences of Not Protecting Your Brand Name:
- Loss of rights to trademark your brand.
- Inability to enforce your rights once it’s trademarked.
- Risk of others profiting from your brand.
- Possibility of consumer confusion about your brand.
Domain Image via Shutterstock
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