As we enter the new normal, many legal departments have already begun looking for ways to reduce spend even as they are being asked to register COVID-19 domains. IP maintenance fees for patents, trademarks and domains are a natural place to start. While paring back patent and trademark portfolios can yield some significant savings, it’s well-known that most corporate domain name portfolios contain registrations that are no longer needed. Domain names for products never launched, no longer supported or campaigns that have long-since-ended are prime candidates. That said, culling portfolios can be a time-consuming project and one that is often fraught with risk if names that are in-use are allowed to lapse.
So when looking to pare portfolios, how can domain name professionals make informed decisions?
Gain insight into traffic
Understanding traffic can be helpful in determining whether a domain should be allowed to lapse. Keep in mind that much of the traffic reported by your registrar’s web forwarding solution is likely generated by bots — but these figures can still provide a point of comparison. And by leveraging your registrar’s web forwarding solution in conjunction with UTM codes, web analytics solutions can provide detailed insight into exactly the pages being viewed, the length of sessions, and order flow.
This is critical, simply checking to see whether a domain name resolves to a website is insufficient for determining whether it is in-use. To fully understand whether a domain is in-use, domain professionals should check for the existence of DNS records, which provides a more complete view into whether a domain name is actually being used.
Given the expense and effort to recover domains, names transferred as a result of a UDRP, court-order or C&D, are generally not ones that should be allowed to lapse. With access to historical information, domain professionals can easily ensure that these names continue to renew.
Identify brand use
One school of thought is that domains containing variations of brands should never be allowed to lapse as they are often targeted for re-registration by speculators who monitor expiring domains.
Many corporate portfolios contain hidden gems. They often consist of three- or four-character domains, as well as generic terms. While these domains may not be in-use, may generate little traffic, and do not contain brand terms – these domains should not be allowed to lapse. The value of these domains on the secondary market can be considerable. Companies can consider selling generic, unused domain names either by listing them on domain sales platforms or with the help of domain name brokers.
If domains are not in-use, receive little traffic, were not previously recovered, do not contain brand terms and have no intrinsic value, then domain professionals should consider allowing names to lapse, only after obtaining approval from the team which had originally requested the registrations. Documenting this approval will help to address any future questions regarding why names were allowed to expire.
At the end of the day, however, the big question to ask is, if these domains are re-registered, will it matter? The answer to that question will largely be driven by the company’s industry, tolerance for risk, and desire for cost-savings. For some companies, the risks associated with paring portfolios will just be too high. But even if that is the case, companies can still endeavor to make more strategic domain registration decisions going forward.