It is becoming increasingly important to create a recognizable brand in the current age of online stores and entrepreneurial ventures, both small and large. It’s a good idea to think about some practical ways of protecting your brand once you have built some sort of reliable customer base with your online presence. One way to protect a brand and plan for future growth is to block domain extensions in bulk.
What is a Domain Extension?
A domain (or domain name) is the part of a URL that uniquely correlates your website to the IP address connected to your website’s data. That data is housed on the DNS server and is accessed by your specific domain name. This is what customers and clients think of when they want to access a website.
For example, the website for the media company CNN is accessible by typing in www.cnn.com where “cnn” is the domain name. A domain extension is what comes after the domain name. In the CNN URL example above, the “.com” portion would be considered the extension.
Why Your Business Should Block Domain Extensions
The same brand can have multiple domain extensions or TLDs (Top Level Domains) already in use, but they may want to block multiple domain extensions in bulk to protect their brand. The primary reason a business or entity may want to do so would be to protect against various cyber threats, including cybersquatting, phishing, and/or the use of brand/brand adjacent materials or phrases in malicious and/or inappropriate websites.
By blocking the domain extensions related to your business, you are able to keep others from using them. There are a few additional benefits for blocking these domain extensions in bulk as well, such as being able to block other variations; for example, homographs (which we’ll explain in depth below), misspells, and plural versions.
Types of Threats Your Site Faces
Cybersquatting is when someone registers domains that relate to an existing brand and then release them to the legal brand owner for a premium price. Phishing occurs when a different website is created under a similar domain name or extension for the purpose of luring existing and future customers to steal their personal/purchase information. Some people may even use homographs, misspells, plurals, or relating extensions to lure people to sexually explicit, virus-infected, or otherwise malicious websites.
A homograph is when two words are spelled the same, but utilize different alphabets or characters. For example, a Greek “α” can easily be mistaken for the Latin lowercase “a” and used to spoof a reputable brand (think αpple.com instead of apple.com). Attackers can use these and the other aforementioned slip-ups and typos to create identical or similar websites that are malicious in nature. If you register impersonating names and variations, then those websites won’t or can’t be built in the first place, and attacks are thwarted before they can start. Blocking domain extensions can also include extra strings of text to give the full protection necessary to preserve the sovereignty of your trademarked domain.
Sidenote: While the terms “homograph” and “homoglyph” are often used interchangeably in domain/tech space, from a purely linguistic standpoint a homograph is two words spelled the same but with different meanings, while a homoglyph is two characters that appear identical or very similar.
Another helpful benefit of blocking domain names in bulk is the cost efficiency. The alternative to blocking would be defensive registration. In that case, a company would have to register and pay for each domain with renewal fees that are more costly than simply blocking them. The amount of savings varies from product to product, but is apparent nonetheless.
How To Block Domains in Bulk
In order to plan for future growth as an entrepreneur, it is a good idea to think about these potential threats and consider blocking domain extensions and their mistypes in bulk. There are different defensive registration packages and services offered through domain registrars which can protect against these threats. For example, 101domain (one of the largest international registrars) offers domain packages which block multiple extensions in bulk such as DPML, Uni EPS, TREx, and Adultblock. Each of these have similarities and differences between them, some of which can be used in conjunction with the others to maximize brand and customer protection. Before comparing and contrasting these services, you will need to register your mark with the Trademark Clearing House, or the TMCH. This can be done directly with the TMCH on their website, or you can choose to go through your domain registrar who offers that as well.
DPML is short for Domains Protected Marks List which is connected to Donuts Inc. Like all of the other products, DPML has a list of extensions that will be blocked so that they are nonfunctional unless someone else can claim sunrise rights or you purposefully unblock them to register and use them. However, this Donuts product boasts the largest list of protected TLDs at about 220 and counting. Donuts also offers DPML+ as a related package that allows for the protection of complicated similar strains of text such as “ver1zon” for the trademark “verizon.” Blocking with DPML saves 5% to 10% off of a normal donuts registration, which is a considerable amount of savings considering the volume of TLDs that are protected.
Uni EPS stands for Uniregistry Extended Protection Service. Uniregistry has a list of 23 blockable TLDs, and can save you up to $5,000 in registration fees as opposed to defensive registration.
TMCH Trademark Registry Exchange, or TREx, allows for purchasers to block 43 TLDs. This product package is especially cost efficient, but unfortunately does not protect premium cost domains, or marks registered prior to activating TREx. However, it can be beneficial as an add on to DPML.
AdultBlock has an especially narrow list with only 4 TLDs that are able to be blocked. However, this specific product blocks the TLDs .sex, .porn, .adult, and .xxx which can all be extremely detrimental to your business if not blocked before an attempted attack. AdultBlock covers available, premium, and future domain names, making it an incredibly valuable asset. AdultBlock also offers AdultBlock+ as a related service that includes the addition of homograph blocking.
These services are often used in conjunction with each other to offer the greatest protection possible. In order to figure out which products are right for your company, review the TLDs they list, and see which includes the most related terms you would want to protect.
One more thing to consider when thinking about whether or not you want to block domain extensions, homographs, etc. in bulk is how easy these programs make it to manage your domains. If you want to actually use one of your protected domains in the future, you can easily unblock the domain from your access point and register it at that time.
It would be much harder to access domains and TLDs if purchased separately rather than blocking them all at once. You would have to go in and access each term one by one instead of having them all at a glance.
The benefits of blocking domain extensions in bulk are clear. Whether a brand is already established or steadily growing, online trademark and brand protection is most effective with these blocking services. Blocking domain extensions is much more cost effective than defensive registration, provides protection from various cyber threats, and aids with domain management.