If you were in charge of product development and launches, would you wait to register the trademark until the day before you announced it to the world? Would you risk losing that trademark to someone who had a similar product and happened to hear rumors of your impending release?
Obviously, the answer to these questions should be no.
Why, then, would you wait to register the domain name for that same product?
Maybe you are afraid of someone spotting the registration and using it to spread rumors. Maybe you think this will hide your project from the gathering masses so you can launch to an unsuspecting world and surprise everyone with a major new development. Maybe you simply thought you could wait to buy your domain because surely no one would try to register a branded name before you got to it.
In the modern online marketplace, none of those are valid reasons not to register a domain as soon as you know what your product or company is called.
But surely I can wait to register a name that involves one of my trademarks, you might be saying. Surely, there’s nothing to fear on that front. No one would have any reason to try that in this day and age for surely they would know that we have plenty of legal recourse to make them regret it.
And then you might realize that if you use the word “surely” so many times in a single paragraph, that the only person you’re trying to convince here is yourself.
The Lego Dimensions Incident
On April 9 of this year, Lego and Warner Bros. announced that they would be jumping on the Skylanders/Disney Infinity train with their own version of a video game with a collectable toy component. Since those other two games have made nothing short of an unbelievable fortune for their publishers, this, perhaps, shouldn’t be that big of a surprise.
Naturally, when something like this is announced, reporters are going to try to find out as much as they possibly can. So why wouldn’t they immediately head directly to LegoDimensions.com to see what else the company had to offer.
After all, who would announce a major game based on a massive brand without first purchasing the domain and having an informative web page in place?
As it turns out, the answer to that question is: Lego and Warner Bros.
On that day, if any reporter tried to go directly to LegoDimensions.com, they would get redirected to Polygon.com, a gaming news site.
How can something like this possibly happen in an established internet marketplace?
It turns out that when rumors of this game first started to make their rounds, the deputy news editor at Polygon, Michael McWhertor, started looking to see if any domain registrations or social media accounts would prove that the game was actually in the works and whether Lego Dimensions would be its real name.
When he saw that legodimensions.com wasn’t registered, he basically registered it himself on a whim… because… why not? Surely if that was the real name, he reasoned, Lego and WB would have locked it down months ago.
He seemed to be just as surprised as everyone else that the domain he now had was, in fact, the name of this major new gaming brand/franchise. So, unable to pass up the opportunity, he linked the domain to Polygon’s coverage of the announcement.
Of course, it wasn’t long before Lego Group’s IP representatives contacted him, informing him that they did want the domain. McWhertor said that within 20 minutes of receiving the email he contacted his registrar and transferred ownership to them.
Lego Got Lucky
In the end, this experience could have been a lot worse for everyone. McWherton had no intention of cybersquatting or making an issue of it, so it was done and over with fairly quickly. But it could have be a costly experience if someone with different motives had secured the name.
In an article on the subject on Ars Technica, gaming PR professional Ed Zitron said: “From a branding/PR perspective, I cannot believe Lego let such a critical, obvious thing slide. The moment you know what a product is called, you buy the domain. You buy the domain the moment someone has the idea.”
It is true that there are some legal protections that would have ensured that Lego could take possession of that name. Lego could have sued under the Anticybersquatting Protection Act (ACPA) or arbitrated a settlement with ICANN’s Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDNDRP). Of course, that takes time and money – and it usually takes a lot of it.
All for a name they could have registered in less than 10 minutes.
Let’s Get Political
Big, important domain name misses don’t stop there. Just the other day, it was discovered that newly announced presidential candidate, Carly Fiorina (the former CEO of Hewlett-Packard) failed to register the domain carlyfiorina.org.
We know this, because one of her critics picked up the domain and is using it to highlight the number of layoffs that occurred at Hewlett-Packard during her time there.
Seems like a huge miss for someone with such tech-heavy background, and naturally this looked like prime fodder for late night talk show hosts.
And, sure enough, as she went on Late Night with Seth Meyers on May 5, the subject was brought up. Let’s face it, this kind of miss is something people are going to like hearing about. And she had, at this point, not taken the Lego route and asked for the name from the critics or exercised any of her options to claim it. Instead, she had an interesting way to respond to the situation.
Remember we said that Lego could have avoided all those potential problems by spending 10 minutes to buy the domain in the first place?
Before Fiorina came out on stage, she took a few minutes to buy sethmeyer.org. So when he asked how such a tech-savvy person could let such a thing slide, she responded with: “Do you know who owns sethmeyer.org?” When he said that he didn’t, she admitted that, in fact, she did. So he better be nice to her the rest of the interview.
You can see it happen here:
It still doesn’t appear that she’s going to try and shut down the critics, though. Instead, she’s using the opportunity to raise some money (politics, right?). She sent an email to her supporters that said:
“Did you see me on Late Night with Seth Meyers last night where I spent $16 to purchase SethMeyers.org out from under him? I hope you’ll also chip in just $16 to my campaign right now.”
She went on to say that: “Domain names are a lot like love: there’s always the one that got away. Even if you’re a big name in late night TV or running for President.”
The Moral of the Story
You don’t have to let the best ones get away, though. Your domain name is a critical part of your marketing and branding efforts. You shouldn’t wait to secure that name any longer than you would wait to register your trademarks. This is how people will find you and how they expect to interact with you.
Like it or not, there are still cybersquatters out there and people who would do a thing because “it seemed like a funny idea,” or because they want to make a point. It can all end up costing you a lot of stress and money as you go through all the channels to secure the name that could have been yours if you had made your domain a priority.
As you map out your path to future success, just remember that one of the first steps has to be the acquisition of a premium domain. When that’s in place, you’ll be ready to launch your product, campaign, or career on the right foot.