Lose Your Domain Name? It’s easier than you think…
You don’t ever ‘own’ your domain name; your registration is only a lease, subject to the payment of an annual fee. If you don’t pay that fee (you miss the renewal), you lose the domain and it’s then publicly available for anyone to register.
As a business, your size or notoriety will not eliminate the potential risk of loss.
What’s the potential damage?
A domain name is the location at which your website is hosted: lose your domain and any website that was hosted at that address will go down, eliminating your online presence.
If a third party then quickly registers the domain name, they can take its goodwill and web traffic. Cybersquatting (registration of domain name in which there is no legitimate interest in order to ransom its return, or unfairly commercially exploit its popularity) is a risk for companies of all sizes.
Damage is not only the direct financial loss of losing online trade, but brand damage can also result if cybersquatters use the domain name to divert traffic to a website hosting indecent, counterfeit or malicious content.
Can it happen to anyone?
The BBC has reported that John Lewis recently allowed its wedding gift list domain name to lapse, resulting in the corresponding website going down. Rather than seeing the John Lewis gift list webpage, users were instead met with a domain name registry page, offering to sell them the John Lewis domain name.
John Lewis had apologised for the error, however it could have been a more complex and costly mistake if, for example, the domain had fallen into the hands of cybersquatters.
Can you recover a lost domain name?
If a domain name is lost, it is possible to seek its recovery at the relevant domain name registry (outside of the courts) using the ‘UDRP’.
We explain the UDRP process, and how Cripps Pemberton Greenish can help if a domain name has been lost, in our UDRP Guidance Note.
Can you reduce the risk of losing a domain name in the first place?
An auto-renewal can often be set up to minimise the risk of a domain name being lost, however nothing is risk-free: it’s worth also manually checking at renewal time to confirm a successful renewal, minimising the opportunities for cybersquatters.
However, if your renewal is missed, and your domain name is lost, we are on hand to advise in respect of its recovery.
For more information on domain names, cybersquatting issues, or intellectual property law in general, contact the commercial disputes team.