I’ve heard it so many times I’ve lost count, “a squatter is sitting on the domain name I want.” I cringe every time I hear this because to me, it sounds the same as if you complained about undeveloped land in San Francisco that you think should be yours since nobody is actively using it. Domain names are like the raw land of the Internet, and just like land, you’re allow to own land without actively developing on it or using it at all.
Two block away from me in SF there’s a vacant lot, the owner isn’t doing anything with it. So I thought for fun I’d look online to see what it was worth, $10M. I could put my next office there if the owner would just give it to me for free, or the price that they got the land at 50+ years ago.
Alas, the world doesn’t work this way yet we’re still early enough in the history of the Internet that people still feel entitled to the raw land, domain names, if someone who owns one isn’t using it. Some people think they can sidestep the rules and demand a domain name that they think should be theirs.
I try to remind entrepreneurs that they need to do their homework first, otherwise they could end up paying the price, which usually means being found guilty of Reverse Domain Name Hijacking. Popular domain name blog DomainNameWire.com covered base where a company, called Clearly Agile, tried to get ClearlyAgile.com…the problem – the owner bought the name before Clearly Agile existed as a company, so it’s truly impossible to say the current owner is squatting, he came up with it first actually!
Clearly Agile, Inc., which uses the domain name ClearlyAgileInc.com, filed a cybersquatting complaint against ClearlyAgile.com with World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).
ClearlyAgile.com is used by another company that offers somewhat similar services.
As you can imagine given their choice of domain names, ClearlyAgile.com was registered before the Complainant existed.
The Complainant tried to buy the domain in 2016 but the parties didn’t work out a deal. Then a lawyer for the Florida company sent a demand letter to the domain owner in 2017. It waited another year to file the complaint.
The case was dead-on-arrival because the domain owner could not be found to have registered a domain to target what was a non-existent company at the time of registration. Thus, panelist Scott Blackmer found that the case was reverse domain name hijacking. (Source – DomainNameWire)
Domain names sell for six and seven figures all the time, they are an asset class. Just like you wouldn’t call a person who has inherited land owned by their grandparents a squatter, don’t call someone who registered a domain name before you came up with your company name the same…it makes you look out of touch. The world has changed and just like I wouldn’t expect to buy raw land from you for the price you originally paid, don’t expect the same from a domain owner.
Real estate has been one of the best investments for many people for a long time, now there’s digital real estate – domain names. It’s time to wise up and realize that nobody owes you the domain name that they bought ten years ago just because a year ago you decided to start a company that matches that name. Do you homework or you could end up like Clearly Agile Inc., who will now have their name forever associated with Domain Hijacking.