Once you tell someone about your company, the first thing that anyone will do is type in your website domain name address or google up to find out more about what you do and so on. So it is unsurprising that a domain name is one of the most important intellectual property assets, especially if you are a technology company or a startup.
A domain name is an essential technology asset for a company. Founders should take domain name protection seriously and reduce the risks of losing it due to careless or even an unlawful activity.
Here are several ways you can take to protect your domain name.
1. Assign your domain name to the company
Everyone that creates content or work has to assign his work to the company. Every domain name registered for the company needs to be transferred to the company. If you may not be IT savvy, it is common to get another found or your tech-savvy friend who is “familiar with the IT stuff” to help you with the purchase. Get the person to immediately assign and share the necessary details so that the company holds the legal ownership. Failure to do this usually asks for trouble, and worse, you may even forget about it afterwards.
Founders get into a dispute and fights in the initial years of company growth. Sometimes it can even be worse than a relationship breakup. The worst is that the company will suffer due to the lousy separation, including other staff too if you’ve onboarded a team.
2. Buy a domain name from a reputable domain registry
I know you are starting or bootstrapped and want to save a few bucks on domain name costs. But no one is going to be able to help you out if your hosting company or registrar goes out of business!
Buying a domain name should be a plain vanilla exercise. A domain name usually costs around USD9.99 or so per domain name. Don’t complicate stuff and stick to the basics and get a domain name from a well-known registrar like Godaddy or Namecheap instead of some ‘fly by night’ hosting company. In Malaysia, for example, the usual hosting companies like Exabytes, Serverfreak, Shinjuru etc. have been in the market for many years so you can also ask around for a suggestion.
3. Keep track of the domain name records
When it comes to domain names, it may be great to register or even renew your domain name for the longest period possible like ten years. You can also reduce the possibility that the domain name may lapse. It may be a good idea to activate the “auto-renew” option in the registry so that your domain name will renew itself before it expires. Make sure that the necessary payment details are up to date.
4. Register a trademark as soon as possible
So you’ve formed a company already. Then you’ve also purchased the domain name you’ve wanted. The next step is to file a trademark as soon as possible with your local trademark office. In Malaysia, this falls within the purview of the Intellectual Property Corporation of Malaysia (MyIPO). The average trademark filing fee is around RM1200 to RM2,500. When it comes to filing a trademark, I suggest hiring a trademark agent to help you with the necessary paperwork.
A trademark agent will help you assess the likelihood of the name being approved by the registrar. If the word may get rejected, the agent may also help in responding with a strong appeal. Ask around within your startup network for a trademark agent. And check if he may have a ‘startup package’ rate.
So why is it essential to file a trademark? If someone goes and register a domain name with a similar now, you can now initiate an enforcement claim for an infringement. Malaysia is one of The Asian Domain Name Dispute Resolution Centre (ADNDRC) members, an international centre that administers domain name disputes.