The Internet domain name chase is about to enter its next phase, when the new domain names become available. Get ready for a "name rush" that will rival the Oklahoma land rush of 1889. Back then, there were problems with squatters, now romantically called Boomers and Sooners, and the new name rush will have plenty of problems, too. n Already the ambulance chasers—uh, lawyers—are out in force to make sure you know whom to call when you need to stake a claim to, or defend, that precious piece of cyber-turf that will constitute your corporate identity.
Sure, you should bring your corporate lawyers into the loop. Most law firms have studied the issues, which are closely akin to trademark law. But you need to make sure you have your own naming house in order, too. This means assigning responsibility over names, and issues relating to them, to a specific staff member or group.
This is important, as many of the details of the implementation of the new domain names are as yet unclear, and one of the tasks of the individual or group will be to keep abreast of developments. Larry Robins, a partner in the Boston office of law firm Seyfarth Shaw, notes that much is still hazy. For example, will it be feasible to limit use of the .pro domain to professionals with credentials? Will there really be a "sunrise" period for companies with trademarks to have first crack at the same names in new domains?
While these questions are unanswered, you still need to move ahead with a transition team, creating a list of names youre going to want, in each domain that has relevance. Does your company maintain a museum of early products? Better go for the .museum domain then. And youll have to snap up the potentially negative sites, as you now do, such as "yourcompanysucks. com" and the like. And remember to do it for all possible domains. You might also consider using software that scans sites and alerts you when domains youre interested in become available.
In short, the looming name wars will require a full deployment of corporate resources, from every branch of your company, including IT, marketing and legal—not to mention the CEOs suite. It seems crazy. After all, its only a name, and whats in a name? In this case, probably your companys future.