What’s In A Name

Per Dictionary.com a domain name is “a name owned by a person or organization and consisting of an alphabetical or alphanumeric sequence followed by a suffix indicating the top-level domain: used as an Internet address to identify the location of particular Web pages”. Long story short a domain name is your website name. Having a good website with a logical name can be a key element to the branding of your business, as well as ranking on search engines.

Domain names have become something of an online gold mine, with clever or obvious names selling for millions of dollars! But what does this have to do with your business?

A Story of Names

 X.org, the domain name of the X.org Foundation, is set to expire next week (late January 2016). The simplicty of this domain name makes it extremely valuable for branding. But the domain name is registered to an individual no longer with the Foundation, and he is apparently not interested in transferring it.

A Rose By Any Other (Domain) Name

Do you own your domain name?

Could this happen to you?  Most business today own one or more domain names. Most realize the importance of making sure that the domains are renewed every year.  But equally important is understating who owns the domain name.

How is this done?  Simple: make sure the business is listed as the domain owner and administrative contact.  The registrant name should be the full legal name of your business.  The contact addresses should either be those of people with a legal responsibility to the business, such as owners, officers and directors, or “meta-addresses” such as [email protected] which can be pointed at the appropriate individual.

Who is the listed owner of your website?

It is not uncommon for these contacts to be set to an individual employee or even to the web developer who designed your website.  It might seem acceptable now to use the information of an employee or even a partner or co-owner, but this will only create problems if the employee or co-owner leaves in the future.

Keeping control of your business’s domain name is not difficult.  Here is a simple checklist that may help:

  • Make sure that registered name matches the your business name. You must also do this for your privacy service, if you use one.
  • Verify that you have access to the domain’s account at the domain registrar by logging in.  Keep the password to the registrar account in a secure place.
  • Ensure that at least two people know where this information is stored.  Ideally, these people should have a fiduciary relationship with your business.
  • Consider using meta-addresses for the domain contact email addresses. Then either have the responsible person add this account to their mail client, or have it forwarded. This way if you change staff, you can ensure that domain related mail gets through without needing to update your domain registrar.  Test this email.

Domain names can raise many legal issues, including property law, business law, and trademark law, just to name a few.  Feel free to contact our office if you have questions about your domain names.

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  1. I sold my 30% shares of ownership of a small tattoo shop in a simple one page contract. I registered and built the shop (LLC) mainly 95% of it. I still have the domain name thru Godaddy. Do I still own the domain name (the website)? It’s under my personal Godaddy account. Thanks.

    1. Hi, Rommel.

      I’m not sure I have enough information to be able to answer this. If the LLC owns the “assets,” including the domain name and website, and then you in turn sell the LLC to someone else, then I don’t see how you can lay a claim to the domain name.

      If the LLC never owned the website and domain name, but you were using them in furtherance of the business, then sold the LLC, then I guess it depends on exactly what the business was defined as in your one-pager. Sounds ambiguous, and we lawyers love ambiguity (because we can charge a lot).

      My recommendation is to negotiate something, and do the right thing.


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