If you’re following news about the U.S. presidential campaign, you already know that the soap opera known as politics is getting crazy. And here’s the latest development: type http://jebbush.com into your browser and you’ll end up in a place that you probably weren’t expecting—Donald Trump’s campaign website. Even though Jeb Bush is using Jeb2016.com as the home for his campaign material, he’s likely looing a lot of web traffic when visitors type his full name into their browsers, tack the .COM onto the end, and are promptly redirected to his competition’s site.
Although stories like this don’t often make headlines, this kind of situation occurs more frequently than one might expect. Even though copyright and trademark laws help to protect brands, products, and ideas that could be considered intellectual property, individuals can still find themselves in these sort of situations.
So how can you prevent someone from snatching up a URL that you may want to use or that can be used in a way that is damaging to you or your website? Defensive domain registration is the answer for many registrants—that is, purchasing a URL simply so someone else cannot use it. One of the most well known examples of this is is Taylor Swift’s team purchasing TaylorSwift.porn and TaylorSwift.adult so the domains could not be used by someone else in a way that would sully her reputation.
And sadly, even if you do have a trademark on your brand or product, it’s no guarantee that no one else will register domain names that use your branding. The company that owns intellectual rights for the internet-famous Grumpy Cat is currently suing Grenade Beverages LLC for several instances of trademark infringement, including for owning and exploiting the domain name grumpycat.com. Even though the company has a good chance of getting the domain returned to them, there’s no guarantee that it will happen and it will be a long and arduous task to do so.
Is defensive domain registration the right move for me?
Well, that’s really up to you. You may go your entire lifetime without having anyone register a website that is damaging to you or your business. But there’s always a chance that you can end up like our buddy Jeb: With a domain name that should belong to you in the hands of someone who can cause a great deal of trouble.
You’ll have to weigh the risks and benefits of registering domain names that you have no immediate plans of using. On the downside, purchasing domains for the sake of purchasing them can get expensive, especially with more New Domains entering the web space each day. However, if someone else registers a domain name that you want or should rightfully own, it’s quite the headache to get it back or keep it from damaging your reputation.