i let my domain expire and someone picked it up
December 28, 2007 6:34 PM   Subscribe

I let my company's domain name expire, and now someone else owns it. What can I do to get it back?

I recently let my company's domain name expire. It was my fault, and I'm an idiot, but I never transferred it from my old registrar. I just realized it, did a quick search, and was able to register .net, .org, .biz, .info, and .us. Unfortunately, .com is taken.

I hadn't set up a website at the domain name yet, although I have an S-Corporation set up in that name, and I've been doing business with it for nearly five years. The name is very specific (it includes "software" in it), so the person that took it can't really claim to be using it for a company not related to what I do.

It appears to be registered by a regular guy. There is very specific information listed as the Administrative Contact. Luckily it's not megadomainsnatchersrus.com or anything. I'm still apprehensive about contacting him though, as I'm worried about him trying to gouge me when he realizes it has value to me.

Does anyone have any suggestions on how to proceed? Do I have any recourse given that I am the owner of the corporation that holds the name? If you'd like to contact me via email, feel free to use ask@spamhole.com. Thanks!
posted by anonymous to Computers & Internet (11 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Ouch. The standard procedure is to make a reasonable offer and then just register something similar if the offer is refused.

You'll want to make sure and wait a couple weeks before contacting anyone. It is also standard procedure, you see, to just buy up all expired domain registries and put up dummy sites to count page views. Enough page views means worth holding. Not enough views and the speculator just asks for a refund from the registrar during the grace period. Slimy and annoying, but you should be aware of it before placing a phone call on day 1 of it not being yours anymore.
posted by TeatimeGrommit at 6:52 PM on December 28, 2007

ICANN has dispute resolution for trademarked names. It won't be easy, and may cost more than just paying the company/person what they want.
posted by devilsbrigade at 7:19 PM on December 28, 2007

Who registered it? A company located in the BVI?
Make an offer to buy it back. If it gets refused you could try to claim it back if the name is very specific and the other party has acted in "bad faith". The chance is probably near zero...
posted by yoyo_nyc at 7:50 PM on December 28, 2007

Anecdotal advice: A friend let a domain name expire because she did not how to renew it (she didn't register it in the first place) so she asked for my help. I contacted the new registrant and explained the whole situation to them and they relinquished the name in good faith.

My advice? Be honest with them. It may not work in your favour but if you keep all record of the communications it might come in handy if you have to go through ICANN.
posted by purephase at 8:09 PM on December 28, 2007

I'm going to go ahead and de-anonymize myself, because I initially posted out of extreme paranoia.

I did some digging, and it turns out that there was a three month lapse between when the domain expired and when this person picked it up. As far as I can tell it is an individual. They have an address and a phone number that a person answers with a "Hello?". I don't know how I fucked this up, as I have never missed a renewal in all my years of managing domains. In any case, I did.

I was able to get .net and .org back and I went ahead and snagged .info, .biz, and .us. I don't have the name trademarked, but it is my trade name. As far as I can tell, if anyone else tried to trademark it, I could claim prior use. I should probably go ahead and trademark it.

Right now, the domain points to a "Directory has no index file." error page. My research brought me to that ICANN dispute resolution page, but it looks like I'd be shelling out a minimum of $1000 to go that route. I'm guessing I could buy it off the guy for less than that, but honestly, I've been doing business just fine for nearly five years without a website at all, so I could just set up on .net and wait him out.

I also found the "bad faith" stuff that yoyo_nyc mentioned, and it convinced me to go ahead and email the guy and very politely ask if I could have the domain transferred back to me. I offered to cover all expenses associated with the transfer and asked him what he'd need from us to make this happen. If he comes back with some over the top offer, I can use it in a claim as "bad faith". *Sigh* For some reason I'm feeling awfully cynical about the whole thing, but it's entirely possible he'll be completely understanding and I'll pay for the transfer and send him some money or a gift certificate for his troubles.

I would still appreciate any further advice all of you may have.
posted by AaRdVarK at 8:18 PM on December 28, 2007

I would still appreciate any further advice all of you may have.

I had a domain lapse and get snagged out from under me. A place-holder site was put up for about a year, by which time the sleazy, scum-sucking domain squatters realized nobody was going to come running with offers of $money$, whereby they let their own registration slide and I picked it up again.

Hate to say it, but the absolute worst thing you could have done was to register the the other TLDs (.org/.net/.etc). You compounded your mistake by emailing the person and asking them for it back. Now they know you want it. Now they're going to hold on to it.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 9:49 PM on December 28, 2007

The fact that Dell, Microsoft and several other companies have been so aggressive of late plays to your favor. If he comes back with ANY sort of bad faith request above say $100, I would respond with a "I was really hoping to avoid litigation in this situation. As you know, many companies and individuals are being sued as a result of this sort of practice and I'm loathe to go that route. (cite cases here) Can we not be reasonable about this?" type note.

If that proves to fall on deaf ears, have an attorney send a cease & desist letter. If that still fails to elicit the appropriate response WIPO is your friend.

Feel free to contact me directly if you have more questions. Also - put it on auto-renew when you get it back, for pete's sake!
posted by FlamingBore at 10:23 PM on December 28, 2007

Civil_Disobedient: Thanks for the response! I was very hesitant to email him, but after doing a lot of reading, I realized that I do have a legal claim to the name, as it as been the trade name for my corporation for nearly five years. The best information I've found so far on the subject is in this article (although, it is nearly eight years old).

My email was very humble, but I tried to make it apparent that the corporation had a claim to the trade name. Hopefully he will see that, and we can work something out. If not, I'll just suck it up and stick with .net. If it's good enough for American Apparel, it's good enough for me.
posted by AaRdVarK at 10:24 PM on December 28, 2007

FlamingBore: Thanks for the advice! I've taken you up on your offer and sent you some MeFiMail with some more details.

I think this whole business happened when I consolidated my registrations with one registrar and it somehow fell through the cracks. No excuses. I've gone through and renewed my critical domains for the full ten year that I am allowed to.
posted by AaRdVarK at 10:42 PM on December 28, 2007

Just a heads up, the filing fee with WIPO is around $2200 right now, plus the cost of having someone file for you. You can file yourself, but it's quite a bit of work. After seeing how varied panelists responses to near-identical filings were, I dropped the illusion that I could take care of it myself and lawyered up. Granted, I've got a big company behind me, but it's still worth the expense, as a denied complaint gets you nothing but a $2200 bill and a registrant who can REALLY take you to the cleaners.

But, again, no trademark, no UDRP arbitration.
posted by SpiffyRob at 6:49 AM on December 29, 2007

Honestly, If it came to that, I'd skip the UDRP process and go straight to the courts. I'm fortunate in that his registered address is less than 300 miles from me.

With FlamingBore's assistance, I was able to determine that the guy who registered it only has a about five other domains. It sounds like he just picked it up on a lark and this is all a big coincidence. I'm hopeful that he'll let it go pretty easily.
posted by AaRdVarK at 8:23 AM on December 29, 2007

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