Last month at an engagement party, I met a friend of a friend who works for Advertising.com. After brief introductions and small talk, he mentioned that he works for Ad.com. Knowing that Ad.com had just sold at Moniker’s auction for 7 figures, I inquired further, and he mentioned that his company is actually Advertising.com, but everyone calls it Ad.com. Therein lies the problem.
In most cases, when a company or famous person has become known by a nickname, and that nickname or moniker becomes just as famous as the person (and clearly associated with the company or person), that company or person may be able to legally claim common law rights to that nickname or term.
Michael Jordan was known as “Air Jordan” because of his leaping and dunking ability. During his playing days, Nike introduced the Air Jordan brand, and I believe it is still one of their most famous brands. Had Michael Jordan not been known as “Air Jordan,” the term “air jordan” would probably be worthless unless someone else used that term famously. Like Jordan, Advertising.com became known as Ad.com internally and externally, and many people associate the term Ad.com with Advertising.com. However, unlike the term “air jordan,” the term and domain name “Ad.com” has significant value besides its usage by Advertising.com.
As an entrepreneur and marketer, I can commiserate with all parties involved in the situation. The current Ad.com domain owner just wants the sale completed as expected, Moniker/Oversee.net wants the commission they are rightfully owed, Skenzo is worried that they are going to have to spend tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in addition to the purchase price to protect their new investment, and AOL wants to protect the brand they believe is rightfully theirs.
As a domain investor on the other hand, I am very concerned by this move by AOL, and it will make me more vigilant about researching the domain names I buy and develop.