URL theft by a partner or co-owner: We get calls every week from companies essentially telling us that a former partner or owner of a business has taken control of their domain registrations and that the now former partner is refusing to release the stolen name to the business. Perhaps the name was originally registered in the name of a partner. In some cases, the business owner redirects the domain to another website, essentially putting the online business out of business. More often than not, the business owner requests some sort of cash or other consideration in exchange for the domain name. In essence, they use the URL as leverage to get something they couldn’t get in the context of the partnership. This is perhaps the most common example of domain name theft. Domain names stolen in this way account for approximately 25% of the calls and emails we receive in the area of domain theft.
URLEmployee theft: Unfortunately, corporate management is rarely involved in the process of registering their domain names. Domain registration is often handled by the IT department and even delegated to lower-level website employees. Due to the high turnover rate at that level, the employee with access to the domain registrant’s login information ends up leaving the company, taking that information with them. Again, if there is a dispute with the employee, it often escalates into a domain name dispute after resolution. Once domain registrant information is stolen, it can be difficult to recover.
URL theft by vendors: Sometimes, a technology vendor or website developer will use their information to register your company’s domain name, even going so far as to list their company as the registrant of your trademarks. If there is a billing dispute, the web developer uses the URL as leverage to get paid. Even more common, the web vendor goes bankrupt and the company doesn’t realize that they have no way to gain control of the domain name or even renew the domain name at the end of the registration period. If a domain name is stolen from the web developer or the seller, you could be in big trouble if the seller’s company goes bankrupt, the web developer walks away, or you become the target of a cyber extortion.
The words “someone stole my domain name” are too often spoken words in our business. Companies need to take their intellectual property rights more seriously and protect their intangible assets as they do with other tangible assets. An ounce of prevention is truly worth a pound of cure. Check your registrant login and you will control your domain name from theft.