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July 2001
What¹s in a name?
By John Paul Galles

     Your name is your identity, based on your vision, your product or service,and other names in the community or industry. In this increasingly sophisticated e-commerce and e-communication dot-com world, your choice may even depend on the possible domain names available for your use on the Internet. Protecting this identity and brand that you have created may just have become more complicated with the introduction of the dot-biz domain name.
      Dot-com names have been the standard for business since the early days of the Internet, today accounting for 80 percent of all registered domain names. Responding to increasing demands for Web site addresses, ICANN, the nonprofit corporation responsible for domain-name management, has announced seven new generic top-level domains or Web extensions to be available for use by the end of this year:

  •  .biz (for businesses)
  •  .info (any general purpose
  •  .name (for individuals¹ names)
  •  .pro (for accountants, lawyers, physicians, other professionals)
  •  .aero (who knew that the air-transport industry had such a good lobby?)
  •  .coop (for business cooperatives like credit unions and rural electric cooperatives)
  •  .museum (obviously for museums) While the old race was to get a prized dot-com, the new prize may be a catchy dot-biz, like business.biz or
  • YourCompanyName.biz.

      ICANN has selected NeuLevel, Inc. <www.neulevel.com> to exclusively operate the dot-biz domain name registry. The registration process allows a preliminary period through August 6, 2001, for filing of claims requesting protection of trademarked names (hopefully reducing cybersquatting claims). Applications for specific domain names may be submitted through September 17, 2001, and .biz domain names are  scheduled to go live on October 1, 2001.
     While the impact of the dot-biz domain name is yet to be seen, it would seem wise to prepare now to protect your business name and trademarks in this new  environment. Domain names may seem inconsequentially geeky, but their import can be profound, cutting to the very identity of businesses.
     There are the highly desirable trade-type names like eToys.com and e-Cards.com. There are the names that have in themselves become mammoth like yahoo.com, ebay.com and amazon.com. There are the popular names like Madonna.com and whitehouse.com (both of which happen to be porn sites). There are even parodied names like GMsucks.com and TWAsucks.com, related to large companies.
     The importance of Web site names in the commercial marketplace has meant that businesses must consider and anticipate variations on Web site names in order to build and protect their identity. For example, since individuals critical of companies or their products have created Web sites expressing their views with monikers along the lines of CompanyNameSucks.com, some companies have proactively registered these names themselves. Verizon Communications, the company created from the merger of Bell Atlantic and GTE, owns Verizonsucks.com.[In that particular case, one parodist registered the domain name Verizonreallysucks.com in response, which got the attention of Verizon's lawyers. Typically when confronted by a well-financed legal team, parodists throw in the towel. In this case, though, the parodist registered the domain name VerizonShouldSpendMoreTimeFixingItsNetworkAndLessMoneyOnLawyers.com. Verizon gave up.]
    Despite silliness such as this, domain names are serious business.Business.com sold for a hefty $7.5 million. Mortgage.com, a victim of  the dot-com doldrums, sold its domain name for $1.8 million. Bank of America recently bought the loans.com domain name for $3 million. Even in an ordinary case, the typical cost of buying a domain name already owned by someone else is several thousand dollars. Register.com, a reseller of Internet domain names, estimates that half of domain names are unused by their owners, often cautious companies that register hundreds of variations of their corporate name.
     It has become increasingly clear that a good domain name can be a powerful way to demonstrate your business tech-savvy prowess and enhance your marketing scheme, in addition to getting people through your virtual door. The advent of this additional dot-biz domain name should cause you to reevaluate the protection of your identity and brand, and think about registering an additional name or two!

John Paul Galles is the publisher of Greater Charlotte Biz.
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