What can we do? Someone has already registered the domain name matching our company's name!

In business, names matter. Company names, brand names and trading names are all valuable assets. Assets that you invest in. So it's frustrating to discover that the domain name matching a name that you use for business has been taken by someone else. The last thing you want is confused customers turning elsewhere. However, many business people don't know how name clashes can be prevented or resolved.

It pays to register your domain first

When it comes to business domain names, a useful rule of thumb is 'register early and cancel late'. If you set up your company and decide on a trading name before registering the matching domain name, you run the risk that your chosen domain will be gone. We therefore recommend registering your domain name before the formalities with the Chamber of Commerce.

Don't cancel in haste

At the end of a domain name's life cycle, the reverse applies: hang on to the domain name for a while, if necessary with a redirect to another domain. Otherwise, your old domain may be snapped up by someone hoping to reel in people who try to visit. There's also a possibility of fraudsters using your old domain to pose as you and scam your clients and suppliers.

Warn the registrant

What can you do if someone has claimed the domain name matching your business name? The first step is always to contact the registrant. Often, the registration will be down to a simple misunderstanding that's easily resolved. For example, it's not unheard of for a big company to start legal proceedings over a domain name, only to discover that they are suing one of their own employees, who made the mistake of giving personal details when registering the domain.

What if the registrant doesn't respond?

If the registrant of a domain that you think should be yours doesn't respond to a polite enquiry, you have three options:

  1. If the domain name is clearly being used for something dishonest, we recommend following the notice-and-take-down procedure. That's the quickest way to tackle abuse and prevent damage to your own reputation.

  2. If you think that the registration breaches your intellectual property rights, we advise you to make use of the Dispute Resolution System for .nl Domain Names. The system's first step (mediation) is free of charge, if the registrant submits a response. Even if the case is referred for independent resolution, it will cost you a lot less than going to court.

  3. You are always free to take your case to court, but the cost is likely to be much higher than with options 1 and 2. However, if you win, the court may award you compensation for your losses. Whereas no compensation is payable with options 1 and 2.

Buying the domain name from the registrant

You and the person who has 'your' domain name are free to negotiate a way forward. The existing registrant may be willing to let you have the domain name for a price. However, before agreeing to buy, we suggest getting expert advice. Especially if the asking price is high. To give you an idea: most domain names that change hands in the Netherlands go for less than a thousand euros. Purchase can make sense if the legal situation is ambiguous. That can be the case if the name you are after is legitimately used by more than one party, or isn't very distinctive.

Feel free to get in touch if you've got a question

You can reach us on working days between 8am and 6pm (Dutch time) by calling +31 26 352 5555 or mailing support@sidn.nl.

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