How do you register a domain name?
I know it sounds like a simple question, but a lot of people don’t know where to start. Domain names are registered through domain registration services known as registrars. Some of the better known registrars are Enom.com, Godaddy.com, Networksolutions.com; those are the three big players in this space. You go to their websites, you log in, you give them your credit card, and there’s a registration process. The question is, where do you want to register your domain name?
In each of those websites, there are terms and conditions of use, which contain limitations of liability, choice of law selections and all the things you would normally see, in addition to pricing.
One of the reasons I encourage start-up businesses to be careful is that some of their choice of law affects who owns the domain name. So, for example, Network Solutions’ choice of law says Virginia law. And there’s been a lawsuit where the Supreme Court of Virginia said that domain names are not personal property; it’s not an intangible personal property right; instead it’s merely a license, essentially, a contractual right to hold that domain name.
Well, that’s going to matter to how that domain name is assigned in the event you go to sell your business. Also, what happens if the registrar for some reason goes into bankruptcy? Who owns it? Does the bankruptcy estate own the license to resell it to somebody else? Do you own it? Is it your own personal property? So these things are things that you need to get counsel on, so you pick the right registrar for you, in the right jurisdiction, with the right terms and conditions of use.
There are specialty registrars in this space that can help you as well — companies like Mark Monitor or CSC — that have a little more flexibility over their terms and conditions of use. They may have a little higher level of professional service and may cost a little bit more. But those things are also available to small business owners as well.
Paul D. McGrady, Jr., is a shareholder with Greenberg Traurig, LLP in the Chicago office. Mr. McGrady concentrates his practice in the intersection between intellectual property and information technology, with special emphasis on domain name disputes, online copyright disputes, online identity theft, and Internet fraud prevention and recovery. He is a veteran of nearly 200 successful proceedings under the Uniform Domain Dispute Resolution Procedure (“UDRP”), as well as formal and informal dispute mechanisms in other jurisdictions, including China, the United Kingdom, Poland, Canada, the Czech Republic, and Romania, among others. He also served as the Director of Operations for a start-up domain name registrar, for which he was able to obtain accreditation by ICANN. He is an active member of both INTA and the Intellectual Property Constituency of ICANN.
To learn more, join McGrady for a complimentary LexisNexis® Webinar: The Do’s and Don’ts of Starting an Online Business, on June 14, 2011, at 2:00 pm Eastern Time. To learn more about the webinar or register click here.