The domain name is basically the business card of every website. The name and the chosen top-level domain essentially create the first impression of a company or a blog even before a single page has been clicked on. The challenge surrounding a domain choice: The name should be concise and appealing for potential visitors as well as search engines. Additionally there are several formal and legal guidelines that you should follow. We have summarized the most important tips for domain registration.
Registering your own domain
Whether it is an online shop, blog or a private website, every web project begins with an appropriate domain name. This name consists of a top-level domain (TLD), which ends in .co.uk or .com, and a second-level domain, which is the name part of the domain. The desired name can be found quickly and it barely takes any time to check with the provider whether the desired name is still available.
The provider then takes over the registration with the relevant domain registry. There are certain organizations responsible for taking care of the registration for every TLD. The providers work together with these positions as a registry. If you want to register a domain under five different TLDs, then you theoretically have to contact five different domain registries. Registries such as IONOS take over the communication.
Before registering a domain, every user should ensure that using the desired domain name does not infringe on any existing trademark laws. Domain copyright infringement is one of the most commonly made domain registration errors.
1. Creating a second-level domain
In the US you have relatively free rein when creating a domain name. Some technical requirements must, however, be met: You can use letters from A to Z, numbers from 0 to 9 as well as hyphens, although the hyphen cannot be placed at the beginning of the second level domain. Other symbols such as periods, slashes or question marks are not permitted. A domain name is generally expected to consist of up to 63 characters.
It could also be the case that some domain names, which could not be registered several years ago, are now possible to adopt. An example is a domain name with two characters such as www.hi.com.
Choose a name consistent with your website or business name and be aware that the domain name is not case sensitive. Avoid using 2 names together without a connector like “-“, otherwise you will risk your readability:
NiceShoes.online vs nice-shoes.online
2. Choosing a top-level domain
The top-level domain forms the highest level of the name resolution and the last section of the domain to the right of the dot. Currently the most commonly used endings are .com, .net, .org and the country-specific suffixes such as .de, .es and .us. But since march 2013 new top level domain endings are popular on the market such as .online, .club, .business, .top, .expert and so on. They generally vary between:
- generic TLDs: Generic top-level domains hint about the type of website on offer. Therefore you would expect a commercial website from .com, whereas .org as a TLD would result in an organization.
- country-specific TLDs: These country-specific TLDs give information about a website’s origin. Usually two letters are used when referring to a country, for example, .de for Germany, .hu for Hungary and .es for Spain.
- New generic top-level domains: thereby making it possible to create very specific domain names and, thanks to the top-level domain, give the user a hint of the type of website they are about to access. Commercial terms such as .online,and .business. are also possible, as are terms that identify the location within a country such as.miami, .nyc, .vegas, .london and .wales. There should be 700 nTLDs in the registration process. At IONOS you can even pre-register, or rather, pre-order new top-level domains before the official market launch. The new TLDs are a good alternative for when your desired name has already been allocated to a current top-level domain, and still wish to hold on to your selected name.
A further tip for domain registration: It is wise to secure several domain endings and name variations to be used as a redirect to your official website. Providers often offer cheap packages so it is therefore worthwhile to register your desired name with numerous TLDs. The searchability of a website then increases and all the important domain variations are secured, and, as a result, are not available to third parties.
Using .us as a domain ending
Whereas most internet users go for .com, .net or .org, the .us ending is also a possibility in the United States. It was created in 1985 and can be used by any US citizen/resident, US organization, or any foreign organization based in the US. To make sure these rules are adhered to, all contact information must be made public; no anonymous proxy servers can be used when registering the domain and random spot checks are conducted. Despite the fact that this domain ending can be used by practically anyone living in the States, it’s usually state and local governments that choose this option.
‘Buying’ a domain
If you register a domain you are only renting it for a certain time period; talk of buying a domain is therefore technically incorrect. If the contract is not renewed after the agreed time period, then the domain name will become available again and can be rented by anyone. Regarding the sale of a domain name there is no actual transfer of virtual ownership from person A to person B, but simply a registration takeover.
A form to protect the domain ownership is multi year registration (IONOS offers the possibility of 1,2, 3 and 5 year registration time (except DE: only 1 and 2 years)), enable auto renawall.
Multi year registration is also securing the price, as you pay in the moment of purchase for the full period, you will be protected if next years a price increase will take place.
What happens if you switch your provider?
You should have no problems if you change your provider (registrar), but want to keep your registered domain. You simply need the authorization code for your domain, which you can request from your original provider. If, for example, you plan to transfer from one provider to IONOS, you will need to fill out a special domain-transfer form to confirm the transfer. All further steps will then be carried out. As mentioned previously, the provider’s task is to then contact the appropriate domain registry.
Keep in mind that you can change your provider only after minimum 6 months fter your domain was registered.
How long the domain move takes depends on the particular domain registrar’s rules of procedure. Five to six working days is to be expected with generic TLDs and nTLDs and the subsequent DNS update requires a further 24 to 48 hours.
It is advisable to apply for the domain transfer at least one month before the contract with the old provider expires. If the request arrives too late, you could find that the service period of the respective domain has to be renewed by the current provider before a transfer over to the new provider can take place.
3. No domain without trademark rights
If you decide to sell Adidas shoes in your online shop, you might think it makes sense to include the brand name in your domain. You have to be really careful here as it is relatively easy to infringe on trademark and name rights as a domain owner. Use of a brand or company name is only possible with prior consent of the copyright owner. Therefore explicit written consent should always be sought. You could receive a warning if you use the brand or company’s name in the domain name without permission. Therefore the object and dispute value should not be underestimated. Dispute sums of up to 50,000 euros are not uncommon. If you want to protect yourself from fines and legal proceedings, it is best to play it safe and check the desired domain for the following aspects before you register it:
- Brand and company names: It is tempting to use a big brand name for your shop in order to attract visitors, but in most cases this is not allowed, even when the brand name would address the target group more easily. Many company names are protected by naming rights and must not be used in third party domain names.
- Names of celebrities: Names of people in the public eye can be protected by naming laws, therefore many first and last names are protected unless they are generic. Anyone wanting to start a Helen Mirren fan site or create a blog about being a David Beckham impersonator has to take into consideration the rights of the celebrity when creating the domain name.
- Typing error domains: Typical typing errors such as ebey.com, gogle.com or amason.com are not allowed as domain names as many big brands and names are often protected from similar character sequences so that these kinds of typing errors cannot harm a brand. You can use this knowledge for your own business and protect yourself from any so-called typing error domains.
- Well-known titles: Whether it is a film, newspaper or TV series, the title of any well-known publications should not be used in the domain. These terms are usually copyrighted and unauthorized use is not permitted.
City names, authorities and other government entities should be avoided when registering your domain as this could mean your domain violates trademark laws. Basically the following applies: A brand violation occurs when someone is profiting from publicity. Very big, well-known names such as Mercedes or BMW are not obliged to register as brands in order to be protected.
Verifying domain trademark laws
The trademark law of a domain refers to commercial website subjects. Private websites without commercial use are excluded from the rules. If you want to make money from your website, even if it is just with a single banner ad, your domain should be chosen in strict compliance with trademark laws. The names and terminologies, which fall within the scope of trademark laws, can be found at appropriate trademark and patent offices. It is easy and free to verify using respective sites. The following sites are suitable for quick research:
- International Markets: WIPO International
Using these research tools you can check whether the term you want in your domain has already been trademark registered. Similar sounding word marks or similar logos with existing graphic trademarks are a violation of trademark laws.
Checking for similarities cannot be done on the above sites, therefore a specialized lawyer should be contacted. This article does not constitute as any legal advice and is not intended to replace any advice from a knowledgeable lawyer.