You went through 10 pages writing down and crossing out your domain names ideas. Your friends stopped taking your calls and your family officially asked you to just decide already. But it was all worth it – you finally found a perfect domain name! There is only one problem – it’s already registered by someone else!
Why, oh why?
With over 342.4 million registered domains by the end of the third quarter of 2018, you can’t be that surprised now, can you? Someone might be:
- using it for their website,
- planning to use it for a site that hasn’t even been launched yet,
- using the domain for email addresses,
- keeping it because the name is similar to a domain they are actively using and it’s being redirected to their website,
- preventing other entities from using their name or brand, or…
… they just liked it.
Bet you have a million questions flying in. Can I buy the domain name from them? Can I somehow modify my initial idea? Or should I give up and start all over again?
Before you decide on anything, let’s take a deep breath and consider some of the options.
Option 1: Try to buy it
One obvious way to go around this is to try to make a deal with the person who registered the domain (registrant). However, if you’re only starting off and running your business on a shoestring, getting the name might not be an easy option, financially speaking. Domains can be flipped for thousands and hundreds of dollars, but the price might be lower if the domain has expired or is inactive. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
How to contact the registrant
Since GDPR was introduced, some domain registrars stopped displaying personal information about domain name registrants in WHOIS
However, if someone registered a domain name with the goal of flipping it
Unfortunately, not getting a reply or getting a No means that there’s nothing you can do about it. Anything other than that gives you a chance of getting your hands on the domain.
They replied… now what?
It’s your move again! First, see if they are willing to say goodbye to the name. Next, negotiate the price – and you want to be clever about it because the price estimate depends on various factors:
- Is the name simple, clear, common, with standard spelling, keyword, or allows you to create a domain hack? These easily remembered domain names with other incorporated call-to-action
indicatesthis may be a premium domain name, which implies a higher price.
- Do(es) the word(s) in the name represent(s) a recognizable person, company, product? This may also suggest considerable expenses.
- Is the domain actively used (website, email addresses)?
- Is the name associated with a future event or a new product?
- What is the domain’s legal status (ie. is it a registered trademark)?
- Can the registrant tell how much you want for the name?
- Do they want or need the money badly?
- How much do you seem to be willing to pay for it? (The price will probably be higher if a company wants to buy the name.)
Once you’ve come to a deal, follow the standard transfer procedure. Note that there is some variance in transfer requirements between gTLDs and ccTLDs – depending on the registrar and domain type the transfer can most often be anything from an immediate one to lasting up to 5 days to complete. Still, the most important thing here is to make sure all the payments and other arrangements have been made before the actual transfer takes place.
Option 2: Take legal action
This might not be a popular choice but in case of trademark infringement, it is advisable to contact your lawyer. First, it will be necessary to determine whether:
- The domain name is a part of a trademark or even a well-known brand that has not been trademarked (for instance, a celebrity’s name).
- Was the domain name registered with good intentions, without the goal of making a profit or otherwise off of a brand/person connected to that domain? The latter form of domain acquisition is considered illegal, but solving this issue through legal channels can be very expensive.
In this case, consult your lawyer and follow the instructions in the Uniform Domain-Name Dispute-Resolution Policy, used by all gTLDs and some ccTLDs such as ourselves. Although you might own the trademark, some registrants can still put up a legal fight since their goal was to make money in the first place.
The good news is that you probably have good chances of getting your desired domain name if you own the trademark.
Option 3: Wait for the domain to expire
Time has passed and you haven’t received any response from the person that registered
This, however, is far from a bulletproof plan because many registrars remind their clients to renew their domains. Even if it the registration expires, they give their clients a grace period so they can still extend it.
Another thing you can do is set up a domain monitoring and/or backordering services. The first type of service informs you about your desired domain status changes, while the latter offers you the ability to place backorder requests on any domain name, including currently registered domain names. You usually get charged if they manage to procure the domain, but some services request advance payments.
Option 4: Start fresh!
Maybe everything we talked about just seems overwhelming and you see this as an opportunity to create something new. That is perfectly fine! And now at least you know how the process works!
Here are a few things you can do:
Try with a different top level domain name
If your perfect domain name is taken on .com, why not try .ME?
FoundersClub report shows that the number of Y Combinator companies with a .com domain name has been declining since 2014 when they comprised 80% of the total YC company domains. For the YCombinator’s Class of 2018, this figure dropped to 66%.
Some country code TLDs
Even better, .
Modify your name
There are ways to modify your name and still keep the relation to your brand:
- Add verbs like “get” and “try” and still use your brand name – like Pocket, the save-for-later online content service, did with their getpocket.com
- Extend the brand name in the URL. Add a word that makes perfect sense to the user and ties it to your business (e.g. gogoair.com for Gogo, the inflight internet company)
- Add your country or city name in your URL if you provide services within a certain area, like Rosa’s Pizza a family-owned restaurant in New York City at rosaspizzanyc.com.
Create a new brand name
No, we are not giving up! We are choosing to see this as an opportunity to make something unique, fresh, and memorable. 🙂 Having a one-of-a-kind domain lessens the chances of another company diluting your brand.
Your domain is your Internet ID and simplicity is key. Get back to those sheets of paper, or a drawing board if you so prefer, and think of a name that is easy to pronounce, spell, and remember. It will make it easy for people to look you up and find you online. Avoid using hyphens, numbers or funny spellings because they can negatively impact the credibility of your site apart from being hard to type and remember.
Getting your perfect domain name can be a bit challenging, but following one of these strategies can certainly help you get where you’ve always wanted to be. Good luck!