Recently, Google has thrown it’s hat into the ring concerning offering domain name registration directly with them as opposed to passing it along to a third party. For those who are experienced with creating, purchasing, and managing domain names, this looks like a welcome alternative. For example, Google is offering:
- No cost private registration – Many other registrars charge for this. The value of private registration is, that third parties are not going to have an easy way of identifying the owner of the domain and then bombarding them with unsolicited offers.
- More competition – Usually whenever there is more competition for a product or service this helps to keep prices in check.
- Google as a trusted entity – One stop shopping combined with other services from Google can make things more convenient.
While all these points are good, those who are not familiar with creating, purchasing, and managing domain names need to take several issues into consideration before proceeding. What follows are, “a few things to think about”, before purchasing that domain name and setting your site up on it. Considering these issues now rather than later will save yourself possible pain. See the end of this post for the pain you might have to endure if you fail to heed these warnings.
Before proceeding we need to make some assumptions. You’ve gone through the process of creating a desired domain name and a list of alternative names. In many cases this can be as simple as choosing the name which is the same as your business, service, or product. Or perhaps you’ve made up a name that aligns with a representation of the product, service, or idea that you have in mind. For this discussion we’ll use the generic name of AcmeInc and the made up name Zunrealica. These are just examples and it should be clearly noted that the creative process is rather complex and needs to take into account many variables such as uniqueness, competition for, unintended consequences due to spelling of the name, etc…
Step one – Is the name already in use?
Is the name already in use and if so with what extension? As you would guess, you’ll need to see if the name is even available. You can easily search for available domains names by using popular services such as:
For our two names, AcmeInc and Zunrealica, we find that AcmeInc isn’t available in the popular .com extension. But it is available in several alternative domain extensions. Zenrealica, is available in all domain name extensions. If you are wondering what a domain name extension is, it’s the part you see after the period. Extensions other than .com can be acceptable, but once again care needs to be taken in choosing them.
If you had your heart set on using AcmeInc.com, you’re out of luck. In this case you’ll either have to consider the available alternative domain extensions or try a different name.
Step two – Trademark considerations
If the name you desire is available in the domain extension that is acceptable, you can move on to doing a rudimentary check to see if the name is a registered Trademark. Note, we aren’t attorneys, even so you can use a tool to get at least an idea if the name is already in use.
The tool to use is called TESS. It’s offered by the United States Patent and Trademark Office. You can search to see if the exact or similar name is already trademarked. Note, this does NOT replace the role of a qualified trademark attorney. But, it can save you some unnecessary expense of time and money.
If the name and/or similar name you are considering is already in use, then you may or may not be out of luck. If the name and/or a similar name is not in use, you could be in luck. Once again, a qualified trademark attorney can provide the appropriate guidance. Skipping this step can cost you dearly later on.
You can find TESS by visiting the USPTO Trademark page. Once there, click on the TESS search trademarks icon circled in red. (See below)
If you want to learn more about trademarks and searching for them, we recommend visiting:
- Brown & Michaels – Information on trademarks page
- Brown & Michaels – How to do a trademark search page
Step three – Is the name available on popular digital – social media channels?
If you’ve reached this point, so far you found that the domain name is available in the extension you desire and there are not any apparent trademark conflicts. (Remember what we said about having a trademark attorney properly vet the name.) Now we can check to see whether the name is available on various digital – social media channels.
The point here is to check whether the name is available, in one way or another, on various digital and social media platforms. Examples of these include:
- YouTube Channel custom URL
- Google Plus Page custom URL
- Twitter handle
- Facebook page
- and many more
Fortunately, there are tools that allow you to check the availability of the name. One such service is Knowem. Visiting the site you simply have to enter the name and read the output. It will show whether or not the name is available. If you find that the name is available, great. If you see the name is taken, you’ll want to see what it is being used for and how popular it is. Does the activity associated with the name pose any threat to you? Will it confuse your audience if that platform is popular with them?
It should be noted that the service also allows you to claim your name as well. We always do this ourselves, rather than through the service.
This post is meant to provide you with some food for thought concerning creating, purchasing, and managing domain names. It doesn’t cover all considerations to take into account. It’s quite possible that Google will enact some form of “things to think about” during the domain registration process thus helping domain purchasers avoid problems later on.
Possible pain you might have to endure when you don’t do your due diligence
As mentioned earlier, we promised to share some worst case scenarios from not taking these issues into consideration. Here are two for your consideration:
Trademark issues – Without proper research concerning trademark issues, it’s possible the name you’ve chosen has encroached on a trademark. When this happens you’ll most likely receive a cease and desist letter. This is not fun and will cost you a rather substantial sum of money in attorney fees. And, yes it’s possible that you’ll have to abandon your domain name.
Name dilution – If the name you’ve chosen is similar to other names in use you might find the names being confused with one another.