Google could legally force Oracle to fork over a domain they’ve had for several years that forwards to their main website address. That’s because Google bought the trademark rights of their new healthcare business, which ironically match the name of Oracle’s child company domain. Did you know the history of your domain name? Like a criminal record, it could come back to haunt (and cost) you. And unlike a criminal record, your website’s historical archives are transferrable with ownership. Unconventional business ventures are nothing new for Google, whose project X labs have unearthed some pretty amazing technology like Google Glass and the driverless car. However, the announcement of their new healthcare business Calico purported as a long-term investment by CEO Larry Page raises an important issue that website and domain name owners should take very seriously. If you own a website domain that currently or historically has content or titles that infringe on current trademark rights, you could lose your website if another business invokes the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy ( UDRP ).
How Can a Domain Name be Taken from a Business?
In this case the domain name calico.com is owned by Oracle, and according to U.S. trademark law ( Lahham Act ) and precedential case results like those of browns.com Google can file a UDRP and have the domain name given to them for FREE. Even the ads shown on your website could constitute a violation of another business’s trademark rights. Seemingly innocent links to a retailer in 2002 could be seen as a trademark infringement to a business who wants your domain name. If you’re advertising online (specifically on your site) or the previous owner has done so, take heed. Pay-per-click campaigns are different, don’t worry about this threat if you’re using Google Adwords.This is an important lesson for website owners, highlighting the gravity of thorough domain history research and current laws which are tragically overlooked and grossly misunderstood.
Implications for Small Business Owners with WebsitesIt’s very unlikely that Google would go this route, although it would be within their legal rights to protect their new company’s trademark name and hijack the site name. Instead Google will probably pay Oracle a fair market price for the domain name to keep the peace and avoid public scrutiny. But who knows? Maybe they will file a UDRP to have the domain name handed over to them. And Oracle is certainly not hurting financially, so maybe they wouldn’t mind handing it over. But what if instead of Oracle the owner of the website was a small family-owned company that paid a lot of money for their website, investing much of their nest egg in it. And the new company was not a well-known search engine giant interested in saving face. In that case, the mom and pop company could have their domain name taken away.
How to Protect Ownership of Your Website
1. Research your domain name’s history here
2. Register Your Business Trademarks
3. Hide Your Website’s History from Archives.org
Now it’s time to go research your website’s historical archives and start registering your business trademarks. If you’re still confused or have questions, check out the Official U.S. Trademark Laws here . Happy researching, I hope you don’t find any skeletons in your website’s closet.