Protecting your brand with domain names

Back in the day, protecting our brands with domain names was a little more straightforward. We chose our brand name and bought the matching .co.nz, or country specific extension, and possibly the .com to go with it if we felt like being a bit more international. Customers knew if they tried one of a couple of possibilities they’d find us pretty quickly, even if they didn’t much like searching.

Then along came domain name squatters, buying up all those expired, mis-spelled or unregistered domains, frustrating us all and forcing us to settle for overly long or quirky alternative domains names, while all the squatters were doing was hoping for a nice payout from a huge corporation. Many governments introduced legislation to combat the practice and further protect trademarks, but what really followed was endless legal wrangling. Sadly it was the smaller businesses who were the ones who ended up out of pocket trying to secure the rights to domain names, particularly where disputes crossed international boundaries.

Eventually ICANN got wise and started implementing a program of introducing new generic top level domains, or gTLD’s. These are the .kiwi, .company, .travel, .photography etc, hundreds of new possibilities opened up. To date there are more than 1,200 new generic top level domains and the list keeps growing. Domain name squatters realised they needed much deeper pockets if they were to continue.

So how now do we decide which domains we need to protect our brands? How do we decide if we’re a .co.nz, a .nz or are we a .kiwi or perhaps a .company, a. business, a .contractor or a .expert? Do different domains send a different message to our clients, are the original country level domains perceived as a less edgy option for business? Rather like choosing a company name, choosing domain names has become an important part of setting up a new business.

While the cost of some of the most recently released top level domains can be high, the real advantage is that we can now be almost anything, we are no longer limited by a small selection of country specific domain names, the opportunities are much greater. So if a .com has been taken we can look elsewhere without having to settle for very long or quirky alternatives.

Here at Punctuate we’re a New Zealand company so we have selected .co.nz, a .nz, and a .com domain in line with our NZ trademark. Although we work with international clients we’ve decided to keep things simple, but we’ve got one eye on new releases in case we really can’t be without comes up. Some clients prefer a broader approach and will register a wider range of options to protect a brand, particularly where a business trades in multiple territories.

If you’re interested in registering, transferring or hosting domain names or associated services, please get in touch.