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For more than 10 years, I am offering a service, which can be considered an unregistered trademark.

My domain name is thus of the service, with a country extension.

In another country, a "competitor"/peer was using the same name but with the ".com" extension. This company ceased its activity years ago, but has renewed its domain during a few years. There was no problem so far.

Currently however, the homepage for the domain name in ".com" shows a login page that has no longer anything to do with any professional activity, and whose logo can hurt my brand image. It not truly shocking it itself but very business-unfriendly however.

I suspect kind of a sublte cybersquatting, like if one wanted to boost the domain price in case someone would be interested in repurchasing it for brand image reasons. However, there no obvious domain parking: there is no option offered to repurchase the domain as for now.

Because the domain name in ".com" is more than 10 years old, it still ranks top in Google's search results when typing its name, and this is a problem for me.


History of the domain

The ICAN lookup reveals that the registration for this ".com" domain was "Updated" exactly "N years + 14 days" after its original registration. So, either the original owner has renewed its domain two weeks late, but still within the expiration period (— the content would be quite surprising in such a case —), or someone else got the domain.

I am surprised that the date of the update is within the expiration period and not after the redemption one. Not sure how this exactly works, but I can imagine the original owner might have approved the transfer of the domain to someone else, missed reacting to some backorder request, or possibly that backorders do apply retoractively.

I avoided using WHOIS history tools to not arise the interest of their owners for the domain.


Trying to acquire the domain (if not renewed)

The domain will expire in a few weeks. Its current status is clientDeleteProhibited and clientTransferProhibited.

The registrar offers abuse contact email and phone but I am currently reluctant contacting them for three reasons:

  • I did not register the name used for the domain as a brand, so that my chances are likely slim.
  • I heard that some registrars are doing a real business of expired domain names, and don't want to awake their own interest for the domain.
  • I don't want to make the actual owner aware of my interest in purchasing the domain.

I would like some advice in trying to acquire the cybersquatted domain name in ".com" (at the normal price or without excessive overprice), or at least reducing its current harmful influence.

The domain is a moderately desirable one.

So, I'm looking for recommandations in such a situation.

  • Should I contact ICANN to know the real domain owner?
  • Should I place a backorder from a reputable registrar?
  • Should I better renounce to a backorder and use ICANN's lookup tool and try to buy the domain right after the end of the "PENDING DELETE" phase if it occurs?
  • If placing a backorder, should I rather place it from the same registrar (if reputable enough), from a different one, or doesn't matter?
  • Is there some ideal time to place a backorder? Are there pro and cons placing it soon or placing it or late ?

2 Answers 2

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Before answering your specific questions, the typical options you have in those cases, in increasing order of cost/complexity:

  • contact current owner of the domain and try to make him sell the domain to you; this is the safest course, but requires 2 willing parties
  • if you consider the name infringe on a trademark (it may not need to be registered I think, but IANAL, you have to prove usage/broad knowledge of it of course), you can try, for gTLDs, either the UDRP or URS procedure. URS is supposed to be quicker/simpler but the only outcome is the domain being deleted; UDRP is more tailored for disputes on names but can be longer, has cost, and may finish as a transfer towards you or a rejection of your claim (in that case you can also then use the normal court system, but then even longer and even more costly)
  • wait for the domain to expire and hope that:
    • it will indeed get deleted
    • YOU will the first to be registering it again (those are 2 not small assumptions).

Note that if the domain gets deleted and renewed again it will loose a lots of its reputation. Various services judging domains take into account its age, and new domains just registered are negatively scored.

I am surprised that the date of the update is within the expiration period and not after the redemption one. Not sure how this exactly works,

gTLD domains expirations are simple to understand… as long as you take into account and understand that the registry auto-renews domains, so in fact they never expire. In short: registry auto-renews (adds 1 year) the domain once its reach its current expiration date (so if you look at data from registry, a domain is never expired in fact), after which for a .COM the current registrar has 45 days to decide to either 1) do nothing or 2) renew it explicitly (adding even more years) or 3) delete it, depending on if it gets paid by its current owner or not. You then seem to kind of mix transfer (between registrars) and change of registrants. As .com is a thin registry, a change of registrant happens inside of a registrar and is orthogonal to expiration. A change of registrar can also happen during auto-renew period, but is best to avoid for the extra complexity it creates (better in those cases to renew domain at current registrar, wait 2 months, then transfer; the wait is important is you don't want to deal with messy double-invoicing issues).

The redemption period only kicks in AFTER and IF the registrar sends a "delete" command to registry, at any time during domain lifetime. This is just a safeguard if the delete has to be undone for some reasons and basically just delays when the domain is really back on the market as available to register.

Should I contact ICANN to know the real domain owner?

No, because ICANN does not deal with such matters, and even more so, as .com is a thin registry, even the registry itself (Verisign) does not have information on contacts, hence registrant, only the current registrar of the domain knows who is the registrant.

Should I place a backorder from a reputable registrar?

Maybe. Also reputable is very subjective. See my initial list of options. Waiting for domain to expire and try to snatch it is the worst option of all in the sense that you have 0 guarantee to succeed. Also some backorder services are free if the catch failed to retrieve the domain, some are billed no matter the outcome.

Should I better renounce to a backorder and use ICANN's lookup tool and try to buy the domain right after the end of the "PENDING DELETE" phase if it occurs?

Here you really have 0 chance to succeed, at least if the domain has any interest currently (short, memorable, etc. and/or lots of traffic). People have lots of system to monitor all of that and catch "interesting" names as soon as they get deleted, so you have 0 chance to beat this 20+ years market with manual operations. You can decide to bet on the fact that noone will have interest in this specific domain and hence noone will try to catch it, which means once it is expired and fully deleted, you have no rush to register it again. But it is a bet.

If placing a backorder, should I rather place it from the same registrar (if reputable enough), from a different one, or doesn't matter?

All registrars have equitable access to registry so it "shouldn't matter", but some registrars are more "specialized" in backorders and have more connections to registry (thanks to multiple accreditations) and as such may have higher chance of success. Also depends if the registrar accepts only one backorder per domain or multiple and then does an auction between its customers to get it if the backorder succeeded, or even put on a global auctions marketplace. Lots of case.

Is there some ideal time to place a backorder? Are there pro and cons placing it soon or placing it or late ?

Once you decided you want to go this route, I don't think there is any benefit in waiting to place the order, but again that depends if you need to pay for it upfront or not, if you will do multiple ones at multiple registrars, etc.

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Because the domain name in ".com" is more than 10 years old, it still ranks top in Google's search results when typing its name, and this is a problem for me.

Naive remark: if the domain name ranks higher than your own even in your own area, maybe this is a sign that you need to increase your SEO efforts.

I avoided using WHOIS history tools to not arise the interest of their owners for the domain.

But have you tried a live whois lookup query? What does it say? Do you notice a possible chance of ownership?

I would like some advice in trying to acquire the cybersquatted domain name in ".com" (at the normal price or without excessive overprice), or at least reducing its current harmful influence.

The domain is a moderately desirable one.

It's a very common situation, but it looks like you are not the only possible end user, and good domain names in .com are not cheap because they are long gone.

You could reach out to the current owners but there is always a risk. This may awaken them to the value of the domain name (that they may not realize). Or, it is perfectly possible that you are not the first to inquire, especially if the name is good. They may have declined previous offers.

The other option is to keep watching. Maybe someone else will buy that domain name, or it will expire at some point and end up in a backorder auction with multiple bidders, and the ultimate price could be even higher than if you had bought it first hands.

I get regular inquiries about domain names owned, and I usually don't sell any for less than low 4 figures ($,$$$). Otherwise it's not worth the hassle, and once the name is sold, it's gone forever and it cannot be easily replaced. Getting another domain name of comparable quality would run in the thousands easily.

If you decide to make contact, then try to make it engaging for the other party. A $100 offer is very unlikely to succeed if you just factor in the renewals paid over time, and the overhead incurred dealing with you and setting up transfer of ownership (= time and research), not to mention the built-in value of the domain name itself. It would be like you are asking for the domain name to be given away, and there is little compensation to be had.

Some people have the impression that a $100 offer is generous because it's nearly 10 times the annual renewal fee, but I have just given a couple reasons why this reasoning is flawed, and people won't make the effort for peanuts regardless of your own merits.

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  • The SEO was done properly, but the ccTLD site was deliberately put "down" for some time (with a maintenance page) and the URL recently resubmitted for indexation, so the ranking will take some time to rise. Hence the site with the gTLD domain still stay first when you only enter the brand name.
    – OuzoPower
    Feb 14 at 10:48

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