Originally there were just four kinds of domain names in the USA -- .com for commercial entities; .org for non-profit organizations; .edu for schools and universities; and .net for everybody else. But, soon people got so used to seeing and typing ".com" that its meaning broadened in most people's minds to mean "a Web site" -- as opposed to "an American commercial Web site."
The new ".biz" domain ending, which launches this Fall is different from .com in that only genuine commercial entities will be allowed to use it. Also, it's supposed to be completely non-regional so any company on earth can use it (especially multinationals.) NeuLevel, the folks behind the .biz launch, hope this means every company on the planet will rush to register their names with it. Should you?
Here's our advice:
- If your company does not own the most obvious domain name that Web visitors would expect to find you at as a ".com", and you can't register that name because it's already taken by somebody else, then you should go ahead and register a ".biz"
What's the most obvious name? Any names you've trademarked for starters. Plus any names that you're commonly known by in your industry. Basically, anything that a surfer might assume would be your URL. For example, someone looking for Justin Concrete Inc., might try "justin.biz" or "justinconcrete.biz" but they probably would not try "justininc.biz" or "justin-concrete.biz."
- If your Web site gets a large percentage of traffic from people searching in a particular term that is absolutely central to your business (for example, "concrete"), you may want to register that term under .biz.
Note: this definitely makes sense for the world's largest supplier of concrete, but may not be worth it for someone who only sells concrete in a particular local region -- in that case you might want to be "ChicagoConcrete.biz" Or you might want to get together with the rest of the concrete-related companies in the world (or who belong to a related trade association) and create a simple directory site that would then redirect visitors to various concrete sites in their region.
- If your corporate culture is very concerned about or attuned to trademark issues, you may want to register the ".biz" domain to complement your current ".com" holdings. Remember, you can easily redirect all traffic that ends up at the ".biz" back to your original .com sites.
- If you already own the most obvious ".com" (including any and all trademarks), and trademark is not a huge issue for you, then you may want to relax and let this one slide by. If people are already finding you easily, then why worry?
One thing to consider is the fact that many trademarked names are held by multiple owners around the world. That's because two companies can trademark the same name if they are in very different industries. (The easiest and fastest way to find out who's trademarked names similar to yours is to go to for-fee trademark search service http://www.thomson-thomson.com)
So, will it really hurt your company, if for example you are Justin Concrete and you own justin.com and a Justin Office Supplies owns justin.biz? Probably not.
About the July 9, 2001 trademark claim deadline:
If you have a name that's trademarked formally or by common-usage, and you are concerned that another company might try to buy the .biz domain for that name, you must register an Intellectual Property (IP) Claim Form with NeuLevel by July 9, 2001.
The cost is $90 per name. For that amount, NeuLevel promises to alert anyone claiming the name after you that it's already been claimed. This can't stop them from also registering a claim for the domain, but it can give you a possible edge in any future legal battles.
If the trademark owner wants a shot at the domain without using the arbitration process, it must file a separate application, starting June 25, with its registrar of choice. You can go ahead and submit your applications through whatever company you normally use to register domains. If there are multiple applications for the same domain, the winner will be selected by random drawing.
Then on October 1, 2001, NeuLevel will let every company who registered an IP Claim form know if they, or someone else, was awarded the desired name. Every domain for which an IP Claim was filed will go on "hold" for the first 30 days while trademark holders and domain registrants work out their differences, or commence arbitration.
If others also filed IP Claims for the name prior to the July 9th deadline, on September 25th NeuLevel will (a) randomly pick a winner and (b) put the name on hold for 30 days in case any other IP claimant wants to challenge that winner's right to the name. Professional mediators from four approved organizations, including the World Intellectual Property Organization in Geneva, will be on hand to help you.
The nice thing is that people who don't have a clear-cut business case to win the name can't get it. That means speculators can't buy .biz names in hopes of reselling them for profit. You have to actually be in a business related to the name in order to win the name.
If you are not the domain winner, you may still be able to negotiate a settlement. In fact, we know of several companies, with different products but similar names, which have agreed to share .com domains. For example, California lawyer Gary Link and Georgia-based publisher TeamLink agreed to share the domain "teamlink.com". Visitors to the URL see a simple Web page that gives them the option to click though to either of the two companies.
Any questions? Check with your IP lawyer and/or at the links below for more information.
LINKS FOR MORE INFORMATION
NeuLevel Home Page
NeuLevel IP Claim Registration Info Page
Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) (This is the organization that sets the rules about the ways domain names are sold, and authorizes registrars to do business)
ICANNWatch - Useful News Site on Issues Pertaining to ICANN and .biz
NameEngine's DotProtect Program - This for-fee service helps companies figure out what domains to register and how to register them in order to protect brand names.
Trademark Search Service Thomson & Thomson
Teamlink.com - Example of a Domain Shared by Two Different Companies