Angus Richardson believes it's time to protect your online identity by purchasing domains that criminals could use to impersonate your business online.
Taking preventative action isn’t expensive, he says.
"Purchasing a bundle of domains can cost you less than $100 per year, the .kiwi alone costs less than $40.
"Taking time and effort now to register all the domain names you need, can save you a lot of trouble and expense later."
Getting the right domain names for your business websites is important, says Richardson. "Your customers want to be able to find you online. They don’t expect it to be hard.
"At the same time, rivals can buy names which look like your business to scoop up your customers. "Most of the time customers expect to type your company name followed by a dot and then com, kiwi, nz, or co.nz.
"Helping them find you this way is easy if you own all the relevant domain names. Putting it right when you don’t own the names can be troublesome and expensive. That’s especially true if you don’t own the trademark," says Richardson.
How bad can it be? Richardson uses the example of My Tax Limited (My Tax) - a Christchurch-based tax refund company which owns mytaxrefund.co.nz. It has used the name for years. In September, My Tax complained to the Domain Name Commission (DNC) about a rival company, My Tax Back Limited, which registered a similar address: mytaxrefunds.co.nz.
The case went to Level Two of the Domain Name Commission Dispute Resolution Service, where an Expert Determination is requested of an intellectual property specialist. There, My Tax argued the address was designed to create confusion and disrupt its business. The expert dismissed the dispute because both parties offered similar services.
"It cost My Tax $2,000 for an expert to arbitrate the case. If cases are appealed the cost is another $7,200. These fees are not awarded as damages, even if you succeed in your complaint," says Richardson.
In another well-known case Yellow Holdings Limited (Yellow), operator of the Yellow Pages directories, filed a dispute with the DNC over the domain yellow.net.nz.
It’s worth noting that Yellow Holdings owned similar domain names such as yellow.co.nz, yellow.org.nz and yellowpages.nz.
"The dispute has played out over nearly a decade and there’s still no resolution for Yellow. After Yellow had their case and appeals dismissed by the DNC and the New Zealand Court, the owners of yellow.net.nz offered to sell the domain to Yellow for a whopping $255,000. Which makes you think how this could have all been avoided if someone at Yellow Holdings had thought to buy the domain first," says Richardson.
But what if it’s an international domain? While the Domain Name Commission manages disputes relating to domain names ending in .nz exclusively, there are international bodies which handle trademark disputes with other domains, such as .kiwi. In these cases, if someone infringes your trademark, the lowest fee payable can be US$375 for straightforward cases, and when things are more complex it’s at least another US$1,500.
"It’s not just the money. Preparing for a dispute takes time and energy that could be better spent on your business," says Richardson.
"In both cases the total cost of a domain name dispute is high, relative to the cost of buying domains in the first place. It might cost up to $100 to secure the domain names relevant to your business, and the process takes minutes. That’s a lot less time and money than fixing a dispute, once someone else has nabbed the domains you want."
Angus Richardson is managing director of Dot Kiwi.