Wise words, so many complaints come to me because they forget to renew http://t.co/JgavMCFMcE
— Chris LaHatte ICANN (@ChrisLaHatte) August 28, 2013
I saw this tweet from ICANN Ombudsman Chris LaHatte yesterday, and I want to discuss the topic of the best way to approach a domain investor who has purchased or acquired an expired domain name. Although I generally give advice to domain investors, the focus of this article is advising domain registrants on how I believe they should best deal with an expired domain name that was purchased by a domain investor.
There are many reasons why domain names expire. To name a few potential reasons for why a domain name may have expired:
- Registrants want to discontinue paying for a domain name
- Expired credit card prevents the domain name from being renewed
- Invalid contact information prevents the registrant from receiving renewal emails
- Former employee, hosting company, or other third party was previously managing renewals
- Company bankruptcy or business closure
- Combination of issues mentioned above (ie ignoring renewal emails and no credit card on file)
When a domain name isn’t renewed for whatever reason, it becomes available for others to purchase via different channels. Some domain registrars like Go Daddy auction domain names that were registered with them, while other registrars like Network Solutions and Enom have a deal with NameJet to auction expired domain names. If domain names aren’t bought at auction or backordered and awarded, they eventually completely expire and become available to anyone to hand register.
However a domain name becomes available to a third party to purchase, there is an occasional issue between the new owner and the former owner. Oftentimes, the former owner doesn’t know or understand how the domain name came to be registered by someone else. Sometimes this can lead to a contentious discussion between these two parties as the former owner believes he/the company still has rights to the domain name.
I want to share some practical tips to people who find themselves in this situation:
- Research how the domain name was acquired by a third party. Assuming it went through the proper process, it’s certain that the current owner has rights to the domain name that you probably lost. It will most likely be up to you to work out something directly with the owner without outside intervention.
- It’s good to know when the domain name was acquired, and if possible, what venue and price. Many venues report sale prices, and that information may help determine where to at least start with an offer. Don’t forget that most domain owners put considerable time into research, so that should be considered. In addition, domain names may have been re-sold since the auction and/or renewed. Just because you saw the name sold for $2,000 doesn’t mean the current owner paid that price or that he would sell for his cost.
- Contact the new owner and be cordial. Do not make threats, especially if they are silly threats that would have no legal merit. If I am threatened with any type of litigation over a name I rightfully own, I will immediately turn the discussion over to my attorney, and as a result, if I am still willing to sell the domain name, it will cost much more money. Lawyers aren’t cheap, and I will build that into the cost of the name. I also don’t like working with bullies, so perhaps I won’t even sell the name.
- Let the new owner know why the domain name is important to you or your business. Most domain investors are reasonable people and are willing to work out a favorable price in a situation like this, especially if you are respectful and cordial. I would not want to harm your business because your former wife was the registrant of your business domain name and didn’t renew it.
- Don’t lie about the history of the domain name. It’s likely the owner will be able to verify things you say, such as whether it was ever developed or used, and possibly how/why it was dropped by the company. If you are caught in a lie, it’s less likely that the new owner will try to help you with a deal.
- Make a respectable offer for the domain name based on its value. Realize that 99.9% of the time, the current domain owner is the lawful registrant, and if you have any chance of getting the domain name back, it is going to happen as a result of a deal with the domain owner. You may also want to consider the cost of buying a similar domain name and rebranding. It’s probably worth the money to get this one back if you have a vested interest in it.
- Negotiate in good faith. Don’t work out a deal and then opt to file a UDRP. If that happens and you lose the UDRP, you’ll waste your filing fee, lawyer’s fee, and you’ll probably never get the domain name back.
If you have other tips, I invite you to share the,.