Selecting and Registering a Domain Name

Unlike trade marks, domain names are not technically owned by the user. Domain names must be registered in the domain name system (DNS) database, upon which the registrant is granted the “right to use” the name.

A hierarchy of organizations oversees the domain naming system:
  • ICANN is the ultimate authority—it makes the policies and determines who will be the registry for each particular TLD.
  • An individual “registry” controls each TLD, but can delegate the ability to sell domain names to registrars.
  • A “registrar” deals directly with domain name registrants. If a person wants to register a domain name, they contact a registrar, who for a fee then adds the domain name to the DNS and connects the registrant to the purchased name. There are hundreds of ICANN-accredited domain name registrars.
  • Some registrars use “resellers” to sell domains on their behalf, but a reseller cannot directly add information to the DNS. Most resellers also offer website hosting services.

Your domain name will be one of the primary marketing tools of your business, and should be chosen with the same care that you use in choosing the trade marks attached to your products and services.

In selecting a domain name, you should consider: how effective it will be in driving internet searches by your target audience to your website; how memorable it will be for customers; whether it will be possible to register the domain name as a trade mark in the countries where you intend to do business; and whether it may infringe the trade marks of another person in countries where you intend to do business. To protect your intellectual property rights, it’s also a good idea to register domain names for each of the trade marks and brands that you use in your business under all of the most common TLDs.

Once you’ve chosen the domain name (or names) that you want to register, first go to any well-known registrar’s database and see if the name is available. This may take some time, because hundreds of millions of domain names have already been registered.

You should then do a trade mark search covering the countries where you intend to do business, as well as a general internet search. If the SLD has been registered or is being used as a trade mark and there is the possibility of a conflict, you should think seriously about selecting a different domain name. You don’t want to attract unnecessary litigation, or be forced to change your domain name after your website is up and running.

After finding the available domain name(s) you want to register, the next step is to choose a registrar. Keep in mind that registrars are for-profit businesses, and all are not the same. They offer different prices for different periods of registration, as well as provide different levels of customer service, account security, ease of use, and stability. The last thing you want is for your domain name to be hijacked due to lax security by your registrar, or to have difficulties contacting the registrar in case of a problem with your domain name. So do some research before choosing a registrar.

Keep in mind that you do not need a website in order to register a domain name—you can register first and set up your website later. Websites are typically stored on the servers of a web hosting company, and most domain registrars offer web hosting services. However, you are not required to use your registrar as your website host; it can reside on the servers of any hosting service you choose.

Most registrars require a standard package of information in order to register a domain name. This includes the registrant’s name and the DNS server settings that specify the servers where you would like to place the domain name (typically a hosting company server). Also normally required is the administrative contact that is authorized to make changes to the domain name, such as transferring it to a new registrant; the technical contact that is authorized to make certain changes to the domain name, such as changing the DNS servers; and the billing contact where all bills and other correspondence will be sent.

Be aware that all of this information is loaded into a searchable public database and will be available to anyone performing what is called a “Whois search”. As a result, some domain name registrars offer a privacy service for a small fee.

Once the registrar has entered your domain name into the DNS, you have the right to use that name for the term of your registration, and afterwards for as long as you continue paying the renewal fees.

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