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Need advice on how to handle valuable domain

i accidentally stumbled into something big

10:06 pm on Sep 16, 2011 (gmt 0)

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I was hoping someone could offer some advice about my current situation. I bought a domain roughly four years ago that was a combination of my niece and nephew's names.

I never used the domain for much more than file storage via FTP, but about two years after I first purchased it, I noticed that I was getting a large number of hits each day. I used google analytics to track this, and the hits continued to grow.

Turns out that a major retailer opened an online store whose name differed from my domain name by one letter. All of these hits on my site were from people making typos.

Now this online store is a major deal, and I'm getting, on average, 350-500 hits per day. I imagine this number will go even higher during the holiday shopping season.

I've received several emails over the last year from a persistent fellow who wanted to purchase the domain from me. He claimed to be a graphic designer who wanted the domain as the home of his new design shop. The amount he could 'afford' to pay for the site kept going up each time I refused him. (It started with "$800 is all I can pay". By the last email, it was up to $5000.) After googling a bit, I found out that he buys/sells domains for a living. Surprise, surprise.

Can anyone give me advice as to how I should proceed at this point? I registered my domain before the online store ever opened for business. I think that puts me in the clear in terms of accusations that I'm a leech trying to squeeze them.

One friend said I should gather all the data I've collected through google analytics (esp during the holiday rush), and then approach this company with my hard data in hand and tell them about all the potential sales they might be losing, etc, etc.

I'm new to all of this, so any feedback would be enormously appreciated.

Many thanks.
12:51 am on Sept 17, 2011 (gmt 0)

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When the offer is too good to refuse, make sure you get a certified check before turning it over.

We can't tell you what "value" is right.

<edit> And if that name is close to a trademark/company that close and THEY find out... might kill you before you can sell it to somebody else who will have to deal with that in the courts. </edit>
1:35 am on Sept 17, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Hot potato! I'd unload it fast, just so you don't end up on the wrong end of someone else's trademark slap.

Anyone have any thoughts on contacting the major retailer and saying 'I'm being offered $5K for the domain, I suspect shenanigans - would you match it?'.

Might be a bad move, might be a proper move. Probably a legal minefield to do that.
2:17 am on Sept 17, 2011 (gmt 0)

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But how do they have a trademark on it? I registered my domain before they registered theirs. I didn't connive to find the name -- it's the combo of my nephew and niece's names. How can this become a legal tussle? And wouldn't it be cheaper to just buy me off than spend money in courts?
3:02 am on Sept 17, 2011 (gmt 0)

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gingerale24: Welcome to Webmasterworld, and also to a dose of reality. In most cases "trademark" in business will trump, even if your's is earlier than theirs. Too many case histories out there where it has gone that way. Pick and choose, and at the same time have a sack of cash set aside to fight for "I had it first"... and it is my niece and nephew's names...
3:17 am on Sept 17, 2011 (gmt 0)

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I realize that I'm a total noob, but this situation fell in my lap, and I have to try to figure out how best to deal with it. I thought I'd come here for advice. Would you suggest just unloading it to a more experienced 3rd party and let them deal with the corporate behemoth?
3:55 pm on Sept 17, 2011 (gmt 0)

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valuable domains . . this situation fell in my lap

Hmmm . . What makes your domain "valuable"? Was it always "valuable to the market" (many past inquiries) or just to "personally valuable to you"? $5K sounds like a nice number for a domain that hasn't seen that much type-in activity until the new entity arose . . so I have to wonder just "how generic/descriptive" it is.

One reason I ask is the implicit suggestion of this thread that the domain's value jumped not because of the domain's inherent value (everybody wants it) or "its domain-time coming" (witness recent 3D domain frenzy), but because of the traffic value of your domain "as a typo". So, implicitly, this thread is about how to best profit from a domain whose value arises from its typo-traffic potential.

Does that type of thinking make you a bit like the brand-typo traffic guy? The guy that perhaps very few find likable?

Maybe. Maybe not.

Does the 1 letter difference "make sense", i.e., your domain is a generic, descriptive phrase that stands alone and their website name - with a 1 letter difference - also "makes sense" - except with a different meaning, intent, effort to brand-to-meaning? Money vs. Monet?

Can you build something with an entirely different, yet genuinely related to your domain meaning and context, on your domain?

Have they filed for TM protection? How sweeping an application? Facebook, for instance, appears ready to challenge every domain that mentions "book". Argh. (Hey, it's just investor's money. More lawyers! More lawyering!)

You might/do realize that, in engaging with the typo-traffic buying entity "in this case" you are, at least arguably, evidencing a willingness to make a deal with a true cybersquatter ? That perhaps makes you "of the same ilk": he does it and you are willing to consider enabling him to do more of it, for the right price.

Now that you have done your research have you ever "affirmatively sent him away"? As in "I do NOT believe in profitting off of errant traffic to my entirely innocent domain!". Such a statement is a double-edged sword, so I'm not saying "say that", but you are in a situation where your past email correspondence could come into play should you get sued, so caution is advised.

This reminds me a bit of the UTube vs YouTube situation. You might want to check into the analysis of those domains.

Lastly, "speaking publicly" about such an issue isn't always the wisest move. For example, an aggressive law firm might start searching for clues about someone's intent or design by searching for posts in domain name forums "that might" relate to the domain/person. As stated in this forum's Charter [webmasterworld.com ]:

  1. Posting domain name details is a violation of the Charter of this forum, yet, such details are what competent legal counsel would insist on knowing before offering advice.
  2. There are hundreds of jurisdictions, each with their own variation of intellectual property and trademark law.
  3. Statements made in public forums can and will be used against their maker.
  4. Trademark holders can search domain forums for threads triggered by their communications. Declaring "I was just contacted by a lawyer about a domain . . " can signal "This thread was started by the person you just called." See #3.
  5. Money judgments for cybersquatting, trademark violations and other intellectual property wrongs can bankrupt people and companies.
  6. Threads that involve personal legal or trademark issues inevitably lead to the same conclusion: "We are neither sufficiently qualified by education, nor sufficiently informed of the critical facts, to offer competent, trustworthy, actionable legal advice. Therefore the ONLY sound advice we can offer is TALK TO A LAWYER."

For these and other good reasons, from this point forward [webmasterworld.com], the Domain Forum will no longer host threads related to any individual's or any company's legal issues, especially domain+trademark issues. The only place to seek opinions concerning specific legal matters, such as the ability of any party to assert trademark rights or defend against such a claim, is a law office in the proper jurisdiction.

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