How to buy a domain from a squatter?
November 21, 2008 3:32 PM   Subscribe

What's the best way to buy a .com domain from a squatter? Have you used a third-party to anonymously negotiate a domain purchase? I'd be very interested to hear your experiences.

Googling about reveals a number of businesses that offer to handle anonymized negotiations of such matters... have any MeFites used these services and been pleased with the process? Or displeased? If so, would you recommend someone? What kind of rates, above the domain price itself, would we be looking at paying? This is in the U.S.

Note that the decision has already been made that if the domain can be had at a reasonable price, we should just buy the thing. I'd rather not encourage squatting as a business model... if it were me personally I'd try to take it to arbitration, but it's not my call.
posted by anonymous to Computers & Internet (10 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Is this a domain you have a legitimate trademark claim on, or just a domain you would like to have? I ask because "squatter" is used very loosely these days, like "hacker".

If it's one you have a legitimate claim to, then you can set your maximum "bid" at the cost of the legal process in obtaining it, which a good lawyer will estimate for you. If it's simply one you want to have, but have no legal rights to, it's a market price, which could be much higher.
posted by rokusan at 4:10 PM on November 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

I haven't used this technique myself, but I have lost soon-to-expire domains a few times, and I've had this article bookmarked to use next time I find myself in this situation. Hopefully it'll help you: How to Snatch an Expiring Domain. I realize it's not exactly the same situation as a squatter (assuming I understand what you mean by squatting), but maybe it'll give you some useful tips and insight into the whole process. Good luck!
posted by sa3z at 5:42 PM on November 21, 2008 [3 favorites]

I was squatting on a three-letter domain I registered back in 1996 but not using - - - I sold it via afternic this summer, they have an escrow process that worked reasonably well.
posted by troy at 7:18 PM on November 21, 2008

I can't directly answer your question, but are you worried that a direct approach will tip off the squatter about how important the domain name is to the buyer? (if ABC asks for the price will skyrocket?)

How about you or somebody try to buy it privately (as an individual) instead of via the company? Maybe using a third party will also make then think it's valuable. Bid as John Smith from a temp gmail account.

Maybe file an official claim for arbitration at the same time (I believe it's easy to do). Then maybe seller will think John Smith's offer is worth it just to avoid the hassle.
posted by Xhris at 10:56 PM on November 21, 2008

Mod note: This is a followup from the poster.

Yes, essentially ABC, inc would like to buy They're making do with, because they let the .com lapse years ago, before they were very net-savvy. Crying shame, and one that might play in their favor in arbitration, but as I said, it's been decided to just buy if at all possible.

When I say that is currently owned by a squatter, I mean that according to DNS records, it is owned by a company that has spent at least a million dollars buying-up loads of domains, only to host stuff like, oh, this place-holder site while waiting for someone to come along and buy it. So, this isn't just a private individual with some cool domain names, but a company whose business model involves owning hundreds of thousands of domains, wheat and chaff alike. One imagines that they would expect the wheaty-goodness of to sell for a very nice price, particularly if someone from ABC inc. called them up.

As I've said, personally I'd favor arbitration, but I've been tasked with researching purchase routes for expediency. The current holders of the domain are savvy enough not to openly offer it for sale -- that would factor against them in arbitration, I gather—so someone has to approach them out of the blue. Preferably someone not from ABC, and with professional experience handling such matters. There are businesses like that claim to offer anonymized negotiation services, but sedo seems to be playing both sides of the table, and for a percentage, which doesn't bode well.

Essentially I'm searching for reputable company to act on ABC inc's behalf in this matter. Whether a sedo-like company or a law firm specializing in internetty things, I don't care. There's budget in the tens of thousands for this, if need be, so I don't need advice on how to DIY it. Just wanted to hear from any Mefites with experience using professional 3rd party domain acquisition services. Thanks!
posted by cortex (staff) at 6:29 PM on November 22, 2008

Unfortunately, I don't have much concrete advice to offer. However, a company I'm personally familiar with just paid the ransom demanded from Network Solutions' "premium domain names". It sort of makes me sick to pay off domain squatters, but I guess it's a reality these days. Knowing several lawyers, I would think that any competent law firm would be willing to represent you in such a matter or recommend a firm which would. Maybe look at IP/trademark firms like Harness, Dickey, & Pierce. (I have no personal relationship to that firm, but they're local and well respected.)
posted by paulg at 8:20 PM on November 23, 2008

I would think an "intermediary" would alert the seller that this is a particularly desirable name for somebody.
Try a personal approach. I have been offered $50 for a domain I had plans for that feel through, and the requester was a bit put out when I said no.
I recently got a different email saying "your domain is the same as my license plates" which I thought was a nice way of showing some interest, but not making the dollar signs in my eyes light up.
Maybe a similar approach, offering, say, $400? They might counter with $1000 and you are good to go.
posted by bystander at 9:34 PM on November 23, 2008

I agree with bystander's advice. It might not be the most "honest" approach, but having some unrelated person ask if it's for sale, for their... like.... home gardening blog or something... and offering $50... won't hurt you much and will help you get a feel for the situation without showing your cards.

I suspect this is exactly what the professional domain-acquisition firms do, anyway. It's the right first step on the way to possibly finding reasonable rice.
posted by rokusan at 2:33 AM on November 24, 2008

Reasonable price, of course. My hands are cold.
posted by rokusan at 2:33 AM on November 24, 2008

I'm late to this thread, but I want to state a few things.

Squatter: Uncalled for unless your company has a TM on it. Investor, domainer, hoarder, fine - squatter? Not so much. TM Squatters are the scourge of the domaining business and give all domainers/investors a bad name.

If you have no TM on the name and the name was not some how wrenched from you you're barking up the wrong tree with arbitration. It's become common place for people who want valuable generic names to file a UDRP and that's utter wankery. UDRPs were meant for TM holders to claim their names without huge legal bills not for Johnny Come Lately Wank Stains to take away what someone beat them to or registered after someone else let it go.

Now for your assumption that the person isn't doing anything with it other than parking it while waiting for some fool to come along and buy it - yeah, that's possible for sure. But if the domain is a highly sought after generic domain name with commercially viable keywords they are likely not very interested in selling it at all. It's far too valuable to them right where it is. Sorry, but there are dozens of domainers/investors who never sell their names and don't even bother responding to inquiries.

Now, as for the meat of your question - when a broker approaches me for a name I own or represent I know that the person behind the deal probably has more money than sense. YMMV.

If you haven't already taken action I'm happy to lend you my opinions and insider knowledge on the registrant if that's known and give you my thoughts on whether or not you're better to approach directly or through a pro or non-pro if you want to contact me.

Good luck
posted by FlamingBore at 10:04 PM on December 4, 2008

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