URL theft by a partner or co-owner: We receive calls every week from companies who essentially tell us that an ex-partner or company owner has taken control of their domain registrations and that the now-ex-partner refuses to release the stolen name to the company. Perhaps the name was registered initially in one partner’s name. In some cases, that business owner redirects the domain to another website, essentially putting the online business out of business. More often, the business owner demands some sort or money or other consideration in exchange for the domain name. Essentially, they use the URL as leverage to obtain something they couldn’t achieve in the context of the partnership. This is perhaps the most common example of domain name theft. Domain names stolen in this fashion account for about 25% of the calls and emails we receive in the domain theft area.
URLTheft by Employees: Unfortunately, corporate management is rarely involved in the registration process of their domain names. Registration of domains is often handled by the IT department, and even delegated to lower level web site employees. Because of the high turnover rate at that level, the employee with access to the domain registrant login information ends up leaving the company, taking that information with them. Again, if there is a dispute with the employee, it often turns into a domain name dispute after termination. Once the domain registrant information is stolen, it can be difficult to retrieve.
URL Theft by Vendors: Sometimes, a technology vendor or web site developer uses their own information to register your companies domain name, even going so far as to list their company as the registrant of your trademarks. If a billing dispute arises down the line, the web developer uses the URL as leverage to get paid. Even more common, the web vendor goes out of business and the company doesn’t realize that they have no way of obtaining control of the domain name or even renewing the domain name at the end of the registration period. If a domain name is stolen by the web developer or vendor, you could be in big trouble if the vendor’s company folds, the web developer moves away or you become the target of cyber-extortion.
The words “someone stole my domain name” are words said far too often in our business. Companies must take their intellectual property rights more seriously and protect their intangible assets like they do other tangible property. An ounce of prevention is really worth a pound of cure. Control your registrant login and you will control your domain name from theft.