Aug 30

What Can Happen When You Don’t Renew Your Domain Name

If you let your domain name registration lapse and someone else gets your prized URL, don’t expect sympathy from a domain dispute panel.

In another reminder of why it’s so important to stay on top of your domain renewals, a Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP) decision went against company Rising Star AG in the dispute to get their domain RisingStar.com back. They purchased the URL in 2006 for $5,000 until they accidentally let it expire in 2010 when it was won in a SnapNames backorder auction by the current registrant.

The comments from the UDRP panelists shed some insight on why they made their decision – namely that the new registrant had a legitimate interest in the URL as an investment:

…the Respondent contends that it bought the disputed domain name at an auction for the price of USD 3,300, from which one can take the undisputed fact that the Respondent bought the disputed domain name at an auction for a price of at least USD 1,000, which is an amount considerably in excess of mere registration costs for a domain and can be considered an investment in a domain name.

Many disputes over domains purchased after expiration have gone in favor of the prior owner, especially in cases of established brands. However, you can’t expect to be rewarded your URL back simply because a domain investor bought it after it expired and is now selling it.

When can a dispute work in your favor? When it meets these three criteria (as quoted from WIPO, who oversees the dispute process):

(i) the domain name registered by the domain name registrant is identical or confusingly similar to a trademark or service mark in which the complainant (the person or entity bringing the complaint) has rights; and

(ii) the domain name registrant has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the domain name in question; and

(iii) the domain name has been registered and is being used in bad faith

Criteria (i) is the basis of every domain name dispute, but all 3 criteria need to be met for a decision to be made in favor of the dispute filer.

In the case of RisingStar.com, the registrant had legitimate interests in the domain name as an investment. Also, merely listing it for sale is not an indicator that they were specifically trying to profit from the complainant’s trademark, which would be bad faith. So criteria (ii) and (iii) were not met.

How do you avoid this dilemma as a business owner?

1. Renew your domain name far ahead of time.

There’s no good reason not to renew your domain months before it expires as it is the most important piece of your business presence online.

2. If you lose your domain, speak with an attorney to see if there may be grounds for a domain dispute.

Understand that the above 3 criteria must be met or it could be a waste of your time and money.

3. If the new registrant is willing to sell it, you may have to buy it back.

If a domain investor gets your URL after it expires, understand that you are fortunate because you still have the opportunity to get the domain back. If another company using it for their brand registers it instead and builds upon it, it likely won’t be for sale and you will have to look for another URL to use.

If you’ve found yourself in the unfortunate circumstance of losing your domain name, contact us about our Domain Recovery services.

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