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TELECOM & INTERNET | Contributed Content, Singapore
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Connie Hon

Here's a piece of internet advice every Singapore business must take heed

BY CONNIE HON

When a new year comes around, we fervently embrace the hope that it brings and boldly make resolutions that we fully intend to stick to.

Some of us might have also taken time to reflect on the mistakes that we or others had made.

How about taking time to understand brand new threats that the new 2014 Internet brings?

The following information will apply if you are about to register a domain name address or in the near future.

You may have a nice domain name in mind and the first thing you normally did in the past, was to check if it was still available for registration.

While this not wrong, we need to bear in mind new rules from the new Internet that changes what we normally do first.
The new Internet brings along new risks that Singapore businesses and consumers really need to be aware of and protect themselves against.

One huge risk is, legal rights holders are notified if a domain name matching their trademark is registered by Internet users with any of the new gTLDs.

However, beyond the first 90 days of General Availability phase for more than 700 new Internet suffixes, registrants are NOT notified if the domain name that they are about to register infringes upon the legal rights of a trademark holder!

In fact, registrants are clueless until a trademark holder who may be from any geographic location eventually bears down upon them!

Our advice to Singapore businesses and Internet users is to make the following checks before you purchase that good domain name that you have in mind.

FIRSTLY, Check if the domain name has a matching trademark registered

The Internet may have been around for 13 years but the first ever trademark, Bass (for Bass Brewery) was registered in 1876!

The oldest surviving trademark Longines was registered in 1893 while the trademark OSRAM was the first trademark to be registered in Singapore in 1939!

Trademark registration were singly filed in those days unlike now.

Largely due to the new gtld program that will enter more than 700 new suffixes to the Internet namespace, brand owners were recently bullish about registering their trademarks.

2011, which was the year that the new gtld program was announced to the world, saw a record number of more than 300,000 trademarks registered.

If you have a catchy domain name in mind, chances are, there is a trademark registered for it.

It is wise to check if this is the case before you commit to purchasing the domain name.

If there is a trademark registered for it and you also have a legitimate use for it but in a different class or category of goods and services to that of the older trademark, it will be very wise to register your trademark under a class of goods and services that is relevant to your business.

Check through trademark databases that are easily available online such as IPOS (Intellectual Property of Singapore).
If you wish to be more thorough, you may also check through online databases of countries nearby, in Australia, Europe and the USPTO.

SECONDLY, Check if the domain name has been registered with other extensions.

It is sensible to run a keyword search (your domain name string is the keyword) with other generic or country code top level domain extensions to check if anyone else has registered that domain name.

You may make use of IP Mirror's free or paid search tool to do this. The tool systematically crawls through databases to extract domain names with identical or fuzzily matching keywords.

If the domain name is already registered with any other extension(s), you may perform WHOIS checks on the domain names to find out who their registrants are.

This may shed further light on whether those domain names are owned by legal rights holders.

THIRDLY, Check if the domain name is available for registration

Check on the registration price; whether there are one-time application fees that you also have to pay in order to get the domain name before others; whether the domain name itself is a premium name and you have to pay a premium registration fee and whether the domain name that you want can actually even be registered or is it perpetually blocked from registration.

Prevention is really the best cure in this case.

Do your homework right in order to purchase that domain name with peace of mind.

The views expressed in this column are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect this publication's view, and this article is not edited by Singapore Business Review. The author was not remunerated for this article.

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Connie Hon

Connie Hon

Connie Hon works in Business Development & Strategy with IP Mirror Pte Ltd.

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