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Which domain name to register?

Posted 29/05/2008 3:27:00 AM

Domain name registration - which name to register

When you're registering a domain name for parking, what name(s) should you choose? Registering a domain name that is a registered trademark, recognisable brand or company name is always asking for trouble, but what about other names?

Is it ethical?

Sticking to generic terms is always advisable, but, in an increasingly crowded market, there are a number of other factors to consider, perhaps most importantly, whether registering a domain name would be considered ethical. Examples of unethical registrations include:

  • registering a domain name specifically because it sounds like another domain name
  • registering a domain name specifically because it could be a mis-type or mis-spelling of another domain name (e.g.
  • registering the pluralisation of an established domain name

Basically, any domain registration that depends on deception or someone else's brand/domain name/customers/etc to attract visitors is probably unethical and should be avoided. If in doubt, consider whether you'd be comfortable contacting the other domain name or business owner to ask their opinion.

The rules

However, the rules for domain name registration are relatively new and evolving. For example, registering the hyphenated version of a registered, un-hyphenated domain name (and vice versa) is acceptable provided the domain name is not an established website. A parked domain, in my opinion, is not an established website...just don't plagiarise the content!

One problem with registering the hyphen-twin of an already registered (but unused) domain is that the owner of the other domain may not be as ethical as you. Once you've established a reputation and presence online, they may use this to promote their own site where the only difference between the domain names is a hyphen (or lack thereof). The big question is whether, legally, this would constitute 'passing off' or not, as, where the domain name is a generic term, the content and purpose of the website is likely to be similar or identical.

This is one reason why I would always advise registering both the hyphenated and un-hyphenated versions of your domain name, especially for generic terms. I think most people would rather they didn't invite competition in this way, particularly in view of the relatively low cost of registering an additional domain, and, if you ever come to sell the domain names, a 'hyphen-set' is likely to attract a premium price as it reduces the likelihood of future competition.

Legal considerations

As well as ethical considerations, there are legal considerations. According to auDA's registration guidelines, any domain names you register, if not directly related to your business or company names, must 'be otherwise closely and substantially connected to the registrant'. It's not a legal requirement in Australia to register a business name for an online-only business (i.e. commercial domain name), so this may be difficult to prove one way or the other, but it's worth consideration - what would you say if someone asked what the connection was?

Though you should always stick to generic terms rather than names, the two can sometimes overlap. To avoid the potential for conflict I often use the ASIC national names index to check the terms that I'm registering once I've established that a domain name is available.

There are plenty of generic terms still available for registration so setting yourself up for a potential legal battle is probably not worthwhile. What is considered ethical in domain name registration is a grey area that will only become formalised with time.

Is the domain name commercially worthwhile?

Once you've traversed the ethical and legal minefields, the final consideration is whether the domain name is commercially viable. Will the name attract enough visitors to (at very least) break even? Will it generate sufficient interest from prospective buyers to be sold at a premium? What are the timescales?

Though individual domain registration is relatively cheap, registering domain names on a commercial scale is not. Some commercial domain name companies have portfolios with hundreds of thousands of domain names, which represents a huge capital investment.

At we can give you a very quick assessment of any domain name that you're considering registering, though we obviously can't guarantee its success (or otherwise). Joining our network of domain names using the tried and tested platform also maximises the exposure your domain name will receive. As well as providing advertising income, this helps your domain name achieve it's full value for potential re-sale, and, once the domain name is set up, any revenue from your domain name can be considered passive income. Minimal ongoing effort is required.

If you're unsure about a domain name registration, our services, or any other matter related to domain names, contact now!

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