The way a domain was used in the past could potentially impact a domain owner, so researching any potential domain acquisition is important. Not only could prior usage put a domain owner at risk of losing his domain name due to a UDRP, but there could also be untold legal risk when acquiring a domain name, and also issues with it appearing in search engines. All of these potential problems can cause much financial turmoil as well as take time to remedy and reconcile.
The first and probably the most obvious concern is prior TM infringement with a domain name that may have multiple meanings. If a domain name was previously parked, and the PPC links infringed on another company’s mark(s) where the domain name is also confusingly similar to that company’s marks, the company may have a legitimate complaint. If a new domain owner takes possession of the domain name, it doesn’t negate the issues that existed before. The complainant could cite prior use of the domain name, and the new owner’s claim of non-responsibility probably wouldn’t fly. I think this is especially so in the case of three letter .com domain names, where there may be many companies whose trademarks could be infringed upon.
If a domain name was involved in spam or phishing emails, the new owner may be held accountable. I am not an attorney, so I am not going to say what liability may exist, but from a public relations perspective, it could be detrimental. People may have posted their spam/phishing messages in forums or other websites, all linking back to the domain name. If the domain name gets developed into a website, it might be tough to be legitimized if enough questions were raised – forever linked in Google search results.
In addition to these issues, there are also spam blacklists that exist. If a domain name is put on the list, many mail servers may not accept incoming mail from certain domain names. While that may not be important for mini-sites or for parked domain names, if a business is built on that domain name, email access will be critical. A company may be able to appeal to the blacklists (like Spamhaus), but I don’t know how to handle that.
If a domain name was previously parked or if there were other major problems with it, Google and Yahoo may have banished the name from their listings. Upon changing ownership and/or building a new website on the domain name, it might not even appear in Google or Yahoo because of the domain name’s past history. There is a way to remedy this however, by filing a reconsideration request with Google or asking Yahoo to re-review the website. Neither of these will guarantee that your site will appear, but it’s a good start.
Research is key when buying a domain name. Archive.org offers a great tool to see what the website looked like at various points in time, allowing you to see the history of the site. Domaintools also offers many valuable research tools to see the ownership history, blacklist history, screenshots, and some other useful tools. While you may think you are buying a domain name with a clean history – or one whose history will be cleared when you buy it, but it reality, it’s always buyer be ware.
Looks like DomainTools introduced a new feature/tool today. When performing Whois searches, you are now able to see historical thumbnails in addition to historical Whois changes. After exchanging emails with Jay Westerdal, I found out the difference between this new tool and the Wayback Machine at Archive.org, is that this tool takes real pictures, while Archive.org only takes HTML and possibly stores some of the pictures. This new tool will allow people to see exactly what previously existed on the home page domain name at various points in time.
According to the site, DomainTools Gold Members are the only people eligible to see the full set of thumbnails.
Name Intelligence’s DomainTools has something like half a million registered users, and the company blog has an Alexa ranking much greater than any other industry blog, so I applaud Jay Westerdal for the marketing effort he is putting forth for the upcoming Domain Roundtable conference auction. While many industry auctions seem to rely on emails and press releases announcing the domain names that will be auctioned, Jay has been writing up mini-reviews for some of the better names that are due to be auctioned in a little over a week. As we get closer to the auction, I anticipate seeing more auction names released.
While the ideal marketing effort would be to distribute informational kits about each domain name to potential end-users, I think Jay’s effort goes above and beyond what other auction houses do (he may already be marketing to end users behind the scenes for all I know). With auction commissions reaching up to 20% per sold name, you would think auction houses would really be marketing the domain names in auction to get the best prices for each name. I think this is a great step.
Since end-user businesses should be able to justify spending the most for a domain name, they would be the most likely target. I look forward to the day that domain auction houses market certain generic domain names to the potential end user audience. Educating end users on why they should purchase a generic domain name to support their marketing and branding efforts will be the key to fully unlocking the true value of generic category killer domain names.
If you still haven’t signed up to attend the Domain Roundtable conference, you still have a few days to do so. If you vote in the Name Intelligence User Choice Awards, you will be given a coupon to save $50 off the registration fee. Although it says the voting ends 4/11, it doesn’t look like it has been disabled yet, so you might want to check it out ASAP.
With Domain Roundtable just over a month away, now is the time to make travel plans and register to attend the conference. Organized by Name Intelligence, parent of DomainTools, and sponsored by the biggest companies in the domain space, the conference will be held in San Francisco, the first time it’s being held outside of Seattle. There is an open door policy at the conference, and anyone and everyone is invited to attend. The idea behind this is to facilitate discussion and debate among people of various backgrounds.
Why should you attend Domain Roundtable? According to Jay Westerdal, President of Name Intelligence,
“Domain Roundtable is geared towards serious domainers that want an advantage. The contracts and ideas that people take away from the Roundtable every year is extraordinary. Several times after a show I hear first hand from people that meet someone randomly at the show and now are entering into a very profitable agreement because of it.”
Unfortunately, I will be with my family in New Hampshire celebrating a Jewish holiday, otherwise I would be attending the conference. From my experience, each domain conference has a unique feel, and they all present great opportunities to meet other people within the industry. I have had the opportunity to meet many industry leaders and learn about various companies within the space at similar conferences. This is a super opportunity to learn and network.
When I first read Jay’s analysis of the Snowe legislation, I was surprised that he wasn’t as concerned with it as many others in the industry. While I am no legal scholar, I’ve been doing my research on the Snowe Anti-Phishing Consumer Protection Act (S. 2661), and there are sections of the proposal that could really hurt small businesses with domain names, like my own. Michael Collins from the Internet Commerce Association and Michael Berkens from Most Wanted Domains both posted their viewpoints on Jay’s Domaintools blog, to which Jay asked follow-up questions.
Later yesterday afternoon, Michael Collins followed up his post and pointed out where the most concerning language lay within the proposed bill. Within hours, Jay responded in the comment section:
“UPDATE BY JAY: Michael, You are quoting Section 3.(b)(1)(A) on page 7. You are right about that section. I think it is overreaching in its authority however Section 3.(a)(1)(A) is much better worded. Thankfully this is a draft bill and I will lobby to fix that wording in that section!“
It is important that our industry leaders understand how this proposed bill could impact every small company with a domain name. The way it is written could give large companies the tool they need to take away our domain names if they think a name is confusing to their own name. The proposed legislation is dangerous to all domain owners, and it is nice that we will have Jay lobbying on behalf of domain owners.
After a week’s postponement, today marks the day of the first live domain auction of 2008. DomainTools will be holding their live auction, with the hammer scheduled to come down beginning at 2pm EST. There will not be a video feed for this live auction, as there will be no bidders in attendance.
I am not a bidder in the auction, nor did I submit any names, but I will be a spectator this afternoon. DomainTools is known for their innovative technology, and they’ve made a few improvements from their last auction, including a count-down timer for each lot. This will allow bidders to see how much time remains in each auction, although they are advising bidders not to wait until the last minute in case of computer errors.
It will be interesting to see how this auction plays out. I don’t see any premium one word generic names in this auction (at any reserve level), and those have typically been used to generate publicity in other auctions. Invention.com sold for $500,000 at the last DomainTools live auction. There are many low to mid quality names at reserves between $1,000 – $5,000, which may generate some interest, but I think its going to be difficult for this auction to break 6 figures.