We’ve discussed the importance of domain ownership in past articles, but because it’s so critical and because so many people don’t truly own their website domains, we’ve decided to revisit the subject.
Perhaps you were one of those individuals who didn’t consider it when hiring your first web developer. After all, there are so many unexpected factors to consider that ensuring you own the domain may not have seemed critical at the time. Perhaps you paid the web developer for the domain and “assumed” that he or she would register it in your name.
Perhaps you were not interested in dealing with it and even requested that the site developer “manage” it for you. Whatever the reason, you may have made a severe error if you did not have your domain registered to you. It may yet be possible to reclaim ownership. Continue reading to get a better understanding of the value of domain ownership.
Numerous website development companies register their clients’ domains in a name other than the client’s in order to retain control of the business. Their entire business model is based on this concept. That is a kind way of saying that they are holding your website hostage in exchange for future business.
This is not only unethical business practice, but it is also illegal if they did so without informing you that they, not you, will own and control the future of your online property… even if it incorporates your trademark.
Numerous factors can change following the introduction of your website, making this a severe problem. What if the web developer is unable to continue in business? What if he or she suffers an untimely demise (tragically)? What if you decide to stop doing business with them? In either situation, you’re faced with a significant issue.
We’ve had clients request domain transfers (from a previous developer) only to discover they’re now required to pay an outrageous sum for what they believed was theirs. We’ve had clients who were informed that their domain would not be sold at any price.
If you discover that you do not own and control your website domain, the following are some probable next steps. There may be further legal avenues to pursue that we will not discuss here.
1. Make contact with the individual who registered it and request that it be transferred to you. This will entail creating an account with a website registrar such as GoDaddy or Network Solutions (we recommend GoDaddy) and initiating a transfer request. Bear in mind that the owner is not required to consent. They are not required by law to relinquish or sell the domain to you.
2. Determine a reasonable asking price for the domain and make an offer to the owner.While you may have added value to it (from your perspective), they may have kept it renewed and may be entitled to repayment at the very least. Consider the worst-case scenario, in which the owner is still alive and reluctant to sell it cheaply (or at all), as well as the potential impact on your business’s traffic if you were forced to restart.
3. If you are unable to secure ownership, there are two fundamental options available to you: either work indefinitely with the owner, or choose another domain and start afresh.
We believe it is a good idea to register a trademark for the primary term(s) in your domain.For instance, if the name of your firm or brand is “Brand A” and the domain name is BrandA.com, and you are able to obtain the trademark “Brand A” for your specific use from the United States Patent and Trademark Office, do so.
This is a relatively inexpensive option to (at the very least) exert some control over anyone who could seek to utilize your (previous) domain in an undesirable manner for your business. We hope this helps you appreciate the gravity of this situation.