- by Andy Churley -
Yesterday morning the Guardian newspaper reported that President Trump has been pranked by two comedians. These humourists purchased the domain http://DonaldJTrump2024.com and put up a spoof website which claims ‘I lost the election’ and has the word ‘loser’ distributed liberally throughout the content.
Irrespective of your political affiliation, this domain registration and supporting website displays a number issues that many businesses also regularly encounter. While these errors have been exploited by comedians for amusement’s sake, that’s not always the case and more serious issues affect many brand owners every year.
Issue number 1: Domain name portfolio management. No one on the team thought to register the domain name to protect the president’s brand, despite there being much talk in the media about the President running for office again in 2024. A .COM domain name costs less than-$15 for a year. The cost of reputational damage, in this case, is already high and could end up being a very long lasting one.
Issue number 2: Registration of IP Rights. The President’s campaign team has registered ‘Make America Great Again’ and ‘Keep America Great’, but no one either on his campaign team or in any of his organisations seems to have registered the trademark ‘Donald J Trump’ although Donald J Trump Signature collection was registered in 2011.
Brand owners depend on the strength of their brands to positively affect sales and reputation. More than one company can have the same trademark – a classic example of this is ‘Polo’, which is a confectionary, a clothing brand and a type of car. However, on the internet, owning the domain ‘polo.com’ is a unique experience – there is only one. In this example, the domain polo.com is owned by Ralph Lauren.
Therefore, if the domain http://DonaldJTrump2024.com has been legitimately purchased, which as first sight appears to be the case and no bad faith can be proven, the domain name can be held indefinitely by the first registrant, effectively denying its use by another registrant.
Since no trademark appears to exist for Donald J Trump, it would be almost impossible to repatriate the domain name using the well-established Uniform Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP) or even suspending the domain name through the Uniform Rapid Suspension (URS) programme. This will make it almost impossible for the Trump team to recover or suspend the domain name.
This rather amusing case actually has some serious and valuable lessons to be learnt by Brand Owners
Consider registering domains such as:
Registering domain names that match the jurisdiction and classes of your trademarks will cut down on recovery costs. To recover a domain name through the legal route using UDRP will cost at least $5,000 or more, compared with $10 to register a domain name. For example, if IBM has a UK trademark for its core brand IBM it should make sure it registers ibm.uk as a domain name. If the trademark for IBM is registered in Class 9 - IT equipment, it should also consider registering ibm.computer.
Almost all brand owners invest a lot of time, effort and money in building their brands only to have fraudsters try to benefit from that investment online. Copycat websites, websites selling counterfeit products, domain cybersquatting, false claims of association and traffic diversion are just some of the nefarious activities that should be hunted down and removed relentlessly.
BrandShelter recommends brand owners to take advantage of a complimentary audit that will help you to rationalise and optimise your portfolio by: (1) analysing the makeup of your domain portfolio; (2) making recommendations on which domains in the portfolio bring little brand value and can therefore be deleted; and (3) assessing which domain names might provide cost effective additional protection for the brand and should be considered for registration.
Andy Churley manages marketing for CentralNic Brand Services. With a wealth of knowledge and experience in the domain name and brand protection sectors, Andy has held senior positions at leading online brand protection and IT security companies. Andy has designed and built several online brand protection systems and has advised some of the most recognised brands on the planet on their online brand protection strategies.