How To Protect Your Brand Online – And What Domains Have to Do With It
- by Ilona K.
Table of contents
Brand protection is something that businesses of any size can’t ignore. Not only do a majority of brands face infringement issues and have to spend money on litigation, but those infringements also lead to customer confusion, loss of revenue and damage to a brand’s reputation.
Brand protection, defined as the detection of, and enforcement against, infringing brand assets and content, is a major part of a company’s IP (intellectual property) management and business administration. It sits closely to domain name management in the efforts to protect brand identity online.
David Barnett, the author of the ‘Brand Protection in the Online World’ book and Brand Protection Strategist at Stobbs IP, shares five tips and tactics to use domain name management for brand protection.
Deep Data Analysis
Domain variations are being increasingly utilised by bad actors to drive visitors to non-legitimate content. Those range from ‘fuzzy’ matches to the brand name to exact matches to the official site name but on a different TLD.
Success in tackling brand infringement issues online is down to the use of a range of data analysis approaches which are able to detect as many vulnerable content areas as possible. In practice, this tends to a combination of:
- Mean analysis of zone files (data files containing lists of all registered domains) with other approaches (such as parallel look-ups and exact-string searches), and
- Analysis of results from search engines (‘metasearching’) and other data sources, such as zone configuration information (e.g. ‘passive DNS analysis’), ‘certificate transparency’ (CT) analysis, or the use of explicit query-terms across particular domains.
Programmes such as the TMCH (Trademark Clearing House) and others can also help organisations receive early warning of potential infringements. Looking at the keyword strings and TLDs most utilised by bad actors can also help to inform another tactic – a defensive registration strategy.
An effective proactive measure that brands can take to safeguard their domain assets is a defensive registration policy. It includes:
- Registering key brand variants under official ownership (e.g. facebook.com and fb.com) and implementing redirection rules;
- Registering the domain in multiple ccTLDs (country code top level domains) and nTLDs (new TLDs);
- Registering domains intended for future use, for example, for planned brand- or product launches.
Defensive registration supports managing a portfolio of domains used to host client-facing corporate and product websites as well as email infrastructure, and preventing potential infringers impersonating the brand.
As brand owners, you may also wish to consider applying to run their own dot-brand extension. A dot-brand domain is a type of gTLD (generic top-level domain) that enables you to put your brand name to the right of the dot in a domain name, like sport.bbc or dealership.bentley.
Using your brand name as a TLD in its own right gives a capability to control all official websites and distribution channels. Multiple service providers offer support in preparing applications for a dot-brand TLD registration.
AI and Automation
AI (artificial intelligence) is powerful when it comes to finding a right domain name, checking availability and analysing data for more efficient domain name portfolio management.
Going forward, we expect AI to widely support domain name management in the context of brand protection. For example, some AI tools already incorporate checks to ensure that the suggestions will not infringe protected IP.
There are also opportunities for AI to be integrated into the next generation of brand monitoring and domain management tools. We envisage monitoring systems which learn how to evolve their own settings to more accurately filter and prioritise content, and identify trends in infringement patterns, as well as AI tools to both identify and tackle multiple infringement variations on an automated basis.
Researching Solutions and Providers
Finally, it is also advantageous to explore the competitive landscape for a brand protection service provider. Top tier enterprise providers will make use of a range of methodologies – even when no live site content is yet present.
They will take into account factors such as registrant (domain owner), ISP (Internet service provider, or hosting provider) and registrar characteristics, TLD risk level, presence of MX (mail exchange) records (i.e. whether domains can send and receive emails), web traffic, domain-name entropy (a measure of the amount of randomness in the domain-name string), and so on, to quantify the overall level of threat.
Want more expert tips to grow your brand online? Visit it.com Domains’ blog and contact us on social media.