Be Cautious When Using Domain Search Tool

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In March, I wrote an article about how the Domain Search Tool can help you find a buyer for a domain name, and Andrew Allemann recently posted a great video illustrating how to use the tool. In short, this DomainTools tool can help you find other domain names that use your keyword string in them, and it is an exceptional tool to help you find someone to buy a domain name.

I want to give you a bit of a warning if you are using this tool though, based on something that happened to a friend of mine a week ago. It’s not the fault of the tool, but it’s more of a business risk.

Even if you are using this tool to sell a descriptive domain name, some of the people you contact may feel they have rights to your domain name, and it could open a can of worms for you. For instance, AAA[Keyword].com may seem to be a defensible domain name, but if you try and sell it to the American Automobile Association (AAA), you could run into a company that may believe it has rights to your domain name and cause more problems for you than it’s worth. Same thing for a name like DebtRepair.com, LawnHelper.com or something that sounds descriptive but may actually be a brand name.

This word of caution is primarily for terms that are potential grey areas, rather than straight up keywords, but email recipients may think they have rights regardless of whether they actually have rights. You can see that plenty of UDRPs are filed for keyword and acronym domain names to understand that this isn’t out of the realm of possibility, and when you are doing outbound marketing, you likely increase the risk.

My examples above above may bot be all that great, and this isn’t  specifically  related to DomainTools’ domain search tool. Whenever you are sending emails to potential buyers based on the keyword being in their primary domain name, you should know that there is a bit more risk than if you were marketing a descriptive domain name to companies in that field.

Cybersquatting lawsuits and UDRP filings are a risk in this business, and you should be aware of the risks before you try to sell a domain name.

26 COMMENTS

  1. Good post, Elliot! I would add that it’s always smart to have a trademark professional analyze your domain portfolio for potentially infringing domain names before ever offering them for sale.

    • Knock wood, I’ve never paid an attorney to analyze my domain names and my cost for UDRP and lawsuit defense has been $0 (in over 10 years).

      I would assume a legit legal review on each name for a portfolio of 500 names would be thousands of dollars. In addition, as someone who is always buying domain names, it would be an ongoing cost.

  2. Thank goodness you have been lucky so far. I have seen instances where others haven’t been so lucky.

    Yes, it could cost a couple of thousand dollars to have a professional opinion rendered and I’ve done it for domain portfolio holders. My experience has been that if you hold super premium generic domain names, the analysis is not just whether a trademark exists, but also includes advice on how to use the website or parked page so that it does not tread on the possibility of getting sued. This type of analysis and advice is worth its weight in gold.

    • I agree it can be beneficial, but adding 10-15 premium names a month means that if I am not keeping up with the legal reviews, I would be exposing myself to the same risk constantly.

  3. Without discussing my firm’s fees, if a domain investor client retains my firm for analysis and advice on their domain portfolio and more domains are added, it is does not take long to do the analysis and render the advice, so the cost is not as much as you think. After the full analysis and advice is rendered it is a matter of the client checking with me before buying additional domains before wasting their money on infringing domains that they will eventually have to unload to avoid legal problems.

    • What happens when you analyze someones names, then give them the green light and they get a UDRP or claim filed against them anyway. Every name has potential risk, some less than others but we’ve all seen enough “generics” go through UDRPs and RDNH cases to know that any opinions on “safe” names aren’t going to matter much come UDRP time, unless there’s some “guarantees”. . . . which I doubt will be forthcoming.

  4. Hi Joseph, it doesn’t necessarily follow that by virtue of you owning a generic domain name that you are not vulnerable to some trademark holder troll going after you premium generic .Com. I’ve seen it dozens and dozens of times. For example, if you own mouse.com and your website is devoted to nothing but stories about mice, then you’re good. But if you have a parked page and the ads are showing for a line of clothing (this is made up) named MOUSE and there’s a trademark for MOUSE for clothing that clothing company is going to want your .Com. I’ve seen instances where trademark holder trolls have gone after premium generic domain holders who are doing absolutely nothing with the domain name. Be careful out there.

    • Dear Karen,

      I agree. I think it should be the owner’s duty to make sure the content shown on their website doesn’t infringe on any TM and, more broadly, doesn’t hurt anyone.

    • This is the reason for which NO DOMAIN must be parked on platforms offering Google’s adv.

      Google adv is offered on last searches stored in the browser’s cache. So the trick is very simple: you (complainant) visit some website related to whatever you want making appear on the website that you want take through UDRP, click some related banners, link etc.and finally return to the “guilty” domain and take some scrrenshots of the adv.related to your business and having nothing in common with the domain.
      Risk of confusion.
      You are screwed: the judge/s of the UDRP panel has/have now the excuse to steal your domain.

      STAY AWAY FROM PARKING PLATFORMS PARTNERING WITH GOOGLE, OR THIS TRICK, SOONER OR LATER, WILL BE USED AGAINST YOU TOO.

  5. “…Even if you are using this tool to sell a descriptive domain name, some of the people you contact may feel they have rights to your domain name, and it could open a can of worms for you. ”
    If there is potential problems in selling descriptive domain names to brand name/trademark domains by direct contact whois email, what other ways you can sell the descriptive domains/ potentially trademark domains?

    By listing in Sedo? Godaddy listing? Flippa? etc………

  6. Having a lawyer to look at your domain names is expensive and not practical. Regular reading on UDRP-related news and cases and use of common sense are better choices.

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