Someone else owns the domain name we want, what to do?
Do you want to obtain a registered domain name, but do not know which method is the best – the legal way or buying it from the current holder?
It’s not easy to know since it depends on the circumstances in each unique case. Many factors are in play: your legal basis in relation to when the domain was registered, the domain’s historical and current content, the registrant’s potential right to the name and which regulations govern the top domain, (for instance the regulations for Sweden’s .SE differs considerably from the Germany’s .DE).
Background – The domain name in relation to the trademark
From the beginning, a domain name was a technical solution to the problem of navigating online. Today, a domain name is so much more than that. The digitalization has led to domain names having a commercial value, both in terms of strengthening a brand online, but also as a an integral part of e-commerce and/or search engine optimization.
Compared to a trademark, a domain name has many benefits. The registration is swift and there are no territorial limitations. A domain name is also not limited to certain goods or services, usually it enables exclusivity to the specific wording. A domain name can be reached from connected devices worldwide, which further increases its value.
Having a registered trademark does not automatically entitle you to the domain name. As a principle it is first come first served, and the first to register the domain name becomes the owner of the domain name. However, the registration and/or the usage of a domain name may result an infringement on a registered trademark.
The consequences of not being properly protected
Many companies are lacking a holistic view of the domain name and its ability to support and strengthen the brand. Despite the fact that we are living a digital world where an increasing number of people are online. How would a loss of your primary wording online affect you?
As the value of domain names increase, typosquatting (misspellings) and cybersquatting (stealing a brand) becomes increasingly common. This means that there are people that attempt to profit on someone else’s brand by registering domain names with the aim of channelling traffic (usually to questionable sites) and/or selling them. If you can prove that the registrant lacks legitimate interest in the domain name and has acted in bad faith, there is usually a good chance of taking over the domain name legally.