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Brand Protection Domain Registrations: There Are More Than You Think

One of the major problems for brand owners is protecting the brand in new TLDs. Most new Top-Level Domain (TLD) registries will depend on brand protection registrations for a major part of their registration volume and some may become almost completely dependent on these registrations if the new TLD fails to capture the public's imagination. Short of comparing the registrant data for each individual domain, there is no 100% accurate method of measuring the level of brand protection registrations in a TLD. There is a method of estimating the level of brand protection registration and that's by checking the hoster for each domain name in a TLD against similar domain names in other TLDs.

Brand protection registration patterns tend to have the same domain name term registered across different TLDs but with the same hosting data. In theory, it is very simple. In practice it means comparing the hosting data for each domain in each TLD. For a comparison of the .COM .NET .ORG .BIZ .INFO .MOBI .ASIA TLDs as of 01/July/2010, it involves comparing the hosting data for 119,361,431 domains. These are the results of that comparison:

TLDCross TLD DomainsPercentage
.com6,619,959 of 88,204,3717.50%
.net6,074,721 of 13,143,60546.22%
.org3,940,164 of 8,329,64747.30%
.biz1,192,120 of 2,062,05357.81%
.info2,470,769 of 6,471,95538.18%
.mobi493,954 of 969,06150.97%
.asia62,937 of 180,73934.82%

The Cross TLD Domains are domains for which the same domain name term is registered in one or more of the other TLDs. The percentage of these possible brand protection registrations on .com is low because of the size of .com TLD and also because there is a pattern of ccTLD registrants registering their ccTLD domain and, if it is available, the .com form of their ccTLD domain.

Drilling down into the data reveals more interesting patterns. A hoster engaged in brand protection is going to have a different pattern to that of a domainer hoster or PPC hoster. The .com pattern for Google.com's GOOGLE.COM is:

Hoster.com TotalCross TLDUnique .comT/C RatioUniqueness
GOOGLE.COM357887127074.10791.3218

The number of unique .com domains on is 2707. The T/C ratio is that of the total number of .com domains to Cross TLD domains. The Uniqueness is the ratio of the total .com domains on the hoster to the number of unique .com domains on the hoster. For a hoster with little or no Cross TLDs hosted, that ratio would tend towards 1. MarkMonitor.com, a Brand Protection Registrar displays a similar brand protection pattern.

Hoster.com TotalCross TLDUnique .comT/C RatioUniqueness
MARKMONITOR.COM414999535319644.35231.2983

The pattern for PPC and parking hosters is somewhat different,

Hoster.com TotalCross TLDUnique .comT/C RatioUniqueness
DSREDIRECTION.COM167210718914165319388.40581.0114
SEDOPARKING.COM143259856206137639225.48831.0408
FASTPARK.NET248528970423882425.61091.0406
HITFARM.COM6054311366604065443.21451.0023

The pattern for a Super Hoster (a hoster with significant market share) is,

Hoster.com TotalCross TLDUnique .comT/C RatioUniqueness
DOMAINCONTROL.COM185099942415266160947287.66371.1501

The most recently launched of the TLDs in the survey, .asia sTLD, has one of the lowest estimated brand protection registration percentages. However there is possibly some element of brand protection registration overlap with the ccTLDs in the region covered by .asia sTLD. The lesson for the backers of any new gTLDs is clear — brand protection registrations are still the major source of registrations and unlike many of the speculative and transient registrations of the Landrush phase, many of them will provide repeat business.

By John McCormac, CIO of www.hosterstats.com
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I would like to understand better Antony Van Couvering  –  Jul 23, 2010 2:53 PM PDT

John - this is an intriguing line of inquiry, but not sure you can make some of these assumptions.  For instance, how do you/we know that the registrations are defensive?  As far as I know, companies like MarkMonitor take care of *all* their client's registrations, active and defensive.  In the case of .asia, registrations in Asian ccTLDs but not in .asia would not be indicative of any kind of defensive strategy, which depends on blocking infringing registrations — and ccTLD registrations would not have that effect. 

Our own studies indicate a very steep drop in defensive registrations among newer gTLDs, suggesting that brands are dispensing with this technique for newer gTLDs — which makes sense, since there is little type-in traffic. 

I will be in touch to beg you to explain your methodology, which I confess I don't fully understand. 

Regards, Antony

P.S. Forgive typos — tapped this out on a handheld.

I don't know that all these registrations John McCormac  –  Jul 23, 2010 8:14 PM PDT

I don't know that all these registrations are defensive, Antony. That's why they are estimates. But when the same names are being registered across TLDs and also on the same hosters, they point to a brand being protected. This is the Cross TLD registration domain. The domain and hoster in .com (for example) and the hoster for the same domain name in other TLDs are identical. The most common pairing is the .com and .net version of the domain being registered. This is a visual representation of the data for .com TLD:

HosterStats.com: .com Brand Protection Registrations

The com/net and com/net/org registrations are the commonest. But the super brands are there too. These are the brands that are registered right across the gTLDs with the same hoster.

The data supports your studies concerning defensive registrations in the newer TLDs. But the important point is in what constitutes a defensive registration. Most Brand Protection centres on large businesses protecting their trademarks and brands. However that's just the tip of the iceberg. There are many small business owners and website owners who will register their domain across various TLDs where they think that it may be at risk and of course where it is still available. These small players are, to a large extent, ignored by the Brand Protection service providers like MarkMonitor and others.

I'll probably have to put all this data in a few Excel spreadsheets. The other important thing to consider is the weighting of the registrations. The .com registration would be, in the current survey, the most important registration except when it comes to ccTLDs. And the problem with ccTLDs is that the ccTLD registries don't provide open access to their zones for comparison. The methodology is straightforward: take a domain and its hoster in a TLD, check if it exists in other TLDs and if it does, check if the hoster is the same. And repeat for every domain in the TLD being checked. Simple in theory but large scale in practice. :) But you've got to think in terms of the TLD being checked and the registrations in all other TLDs being relative to that TLD. Otherwise it gets very confusing.

JohnInteresting stuff (as usual!)I'm not 100% convinced Michele Neylon  –  Jul 23, 2010 3:41 PM PDT

John

Interesting stuff (as usual!)

I'm not 100% convinced that ALL new TLDs will be attractive for brand protection.

Depending on the registration criteria they might prove to be of little value and there are quite a few measures being considered in order to mitigate brands' needs to register domains that they'll never use.

Michele

I agree Michele,The new TLDs have to John McCormac  –  Jul 23, 2010 8:39 PM PDT

I agree Michele,
The new TLDs have to prove themselves attractive to the public. The .tel sTLD was excluded from this survey because it uses the same nameservers for all of its domains. Brand protection will play a part in these new TLDs but not to the same extent as it does with the more established ones. It will still be a gamble for brand owners and some will automatically register their brand in the new TLDs - these super brands can be seen in the com/net/org/biz/info/mobi/asia figure of 3,928 domains. Some brands will have multiple or different hosters.

The regional ones are the most obvious TLDs where brand protection may not be as prominent. If a business doesn't sell into the region covered by the TLD, then it doesn't make much sense to register the domain in that TLD. This is what has hit .asia sTLD - the main TLDs (.com/net/org) are Global. It makes sense for a business to hit a Global market with one registration. If I am selling widgets in Ireland and my market is completely local, it doesn't make sense to register widgets .asia - but it does make sense to register widgets .ie. The new TLDs are not just competing with the gTLDS. They are competing in a far more diverse environment of ccTLDs and gTLDs. Many of the small business owners will have to take a gamble with some of the new TLDs - so will the backers of new TLDs.

.US ccTLD Figures John McCormac  –  Jul 24, 2010 3:56 AM PDT

The .us ccTLD figures with respect to com/net/org/biz/info/mobi/asia gTLDs are:

Cross TLD Domains - Percentage
710427 of 1,616,405 - 43.95%

Some of those will be brand protection but others will be due to domaining.

It is an interesting hypothesis but flawed.Why Constantine Roussos  –  Jul 24, 2010 11:02 AM PDT

It is an interesting hypothesis but flawed.

Why should everything be considered defensive? A trademark is placed in a class or industry. Brands such as Microsoft do not trademark their brand in the class/industry of food or apparel. Why would they register their brand name across all TLDs, especially since most TLDs will be specialized? No reason to do so.

Furthermore, I disagree with the concept of defensive registrations. We had some very compelling discussions with Nokia Music. A Nokia.music domain was a value added to Nokia since it could encompass all-music for Nokia. This is because Nokia and other big brands use domains/subdomains for specific marketing campaigns and use them for tracking purposes (check nokia.com/music - a classic case of a marketing targeted campaign redirect for music).

I strongly believe big brands will use some new TLDs to their marketing advantage, especially if they decide not to get their own .brand TLD. Regardless, the brands could also build content across related TLDs and use SEO, SEM and other marketing strategies to build value and additional revenues. Hence not all will be defensive. Will the revenues from non-defensive new TLD brand registrations offset the minimal registration costs? You bet. Big brands have great marketing departments. Just as their legal departments are doing a great job lobbying against new TLDs, their marketing departments will make a better job marketing them in the right way. Not all new TLDs but the ones that matter the most to them and their target audience. The rest would be a waste of money and time to register.

Does anyone really think that Google would defensively register Google.food? Or for that matter would any consumer directly type that URL in the browser and be confused? I would even be surprised if users would ever type a more targeted "Google.search" in their browser. The only URLs that users type directly are websites they know of, bookmarked or in rare cases go to a "keyword.com" domain.

I believe .CO, .CM and .OM (when their government makes it open) is a bigger risk for brand protection given the typosquatting similarities with .COM. The .CO extension has the biggest risk for phishing and abuse because it is so similar to .COM and is prone to maximum confusion. Then again it is a ccTLD, so no-one can say anything because ICANN can not do anything about it.

New TLDs will have minimal phishing/abuse issues percentage-wise. I can bet my money on that and so would anyone. How much type-in traffic would you expect to get for "Google.co" as opposed to "Google.search" or "Google.car"? Much, much, much more. Why not address the most painfully obvious cases as opposed make new TLDs the culprit for future abuse. There will always be more abuse on .COM or anything that is typosquatting-friendly to the ".COM." That to me is better money spent to protect a brand than registering the brand name across all new TLDs which make no sense. The big brand attorneys know this, even though they will never admit to it publicly.

Constantine Roussos
.music

Such is reality. John McCormac  –  Jul 25, 2010 12:39 AM PDT

The reasons that brands owners register their brands across TLDs is because somebody else might register them. Most of the big brands are supported by trademarks and trademarks have to be protected. They have to be defended or they can be lost. They will also register their domain in whatever new TLD that they consider to be necessary. Microsoft registers its brands across TLDs as does Google. While you may disagree with the concept of defensive registrations, the reality is that they exist and they will continue to exist until there is a mechanism to protect brands in TLDs other than the ones in which they are registered. The best solution at the moment is the relatively low cost of a domain registration. Businesses consider that against the potentially higher cost of future litigation.

As for Google.food - there's a nice opportunity for a food orientated search engine that could help people find ingredients, restaurants or take-aways with the aid of Google Maps. Just because you can't see the opportunity in registering a brand in a new TLD does not mean that somebody else cannot see that opportunity. And if they register a brand name that they don't own, set up a website or service that trades upon the good name of the brand owner, then that's a problem.

Take music.us for example. You also own music.mobi. Now if .music is successfully launched, will you drop these registrations or simply point them to the .music registry website? If you had had the chance to acquire the term 'music' in other TLDs would you have declined that chance? 

What this data shows is that Brand Protection extends beyond the traditional high value Brand Protection niche occupied by MarkMonitor and others. Many website owners are protecting their brand name (for which may not have a registered trademark) by simply registering the .com or .net version of it. You seem to be thinking in terms of Big Brand protection and ignore these small website owners who have to deal with protecting their brands and their businesses.

Defensive registration is necessary because it is not an ideal world. The hypothesis is not flawed and its limitations were pointed out earlier. I think that Philip K. Dick said that "reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away.". Now you may not believe in the concept of Defensive Registration but it exists as does Brand Protection on multiple levels. And because there is no perfect mechanism for protecting brands registered in other TLDs in new TLDs, it will continue to exist.

"As for Google.food - there's a nice Constantine Roussos  –  Jul 26, 2010 9:51 AM PDT

"As for Google.food - there's a nice opportunity for a food orientated search engine that could help people find ingredients, restaurants or take-aways with the aid of Google Maps. Just because you can't see the opportunity in registering a brand in a new TLD does not mean that somebody else cannot see that opportunity. And if they register a brand name that they don't own, set up a website or service that trades upon the good name of the brand owner, then that's a problem."

Google is a rare company because they are in the business of making money through "keywords." They can pretty much monetize all TLD keywords. Other example includes Google.travel. Both Microsoft Bing and Google have been very active in the "travel" keyword game. I assure you they can get their return of investment for a "keyword" TLD registration in the first hour by feeding content related to the associated TLD. I understand the basics of branding but since Google controls search, it would be very difficult. Just the mere fact that search engine results are based on relevant links coming from "credible" websites with related content, it is very difficult to be discovered. If there is a suspicious site, it will be reported to Google by the user community.

Like you already mentioned, the brands will find how to monetize the opportunity. On aggregate, they will find ways to make more money than they lose. You can not just claim "costs" from the release of new TLDs as the sole determinant. Profit is revenues minus costs. I outline the word "revenues" generated because all everyone talks about is "costs." Do you believe that the big brands can not recoup their registration investment and have their marketing departments work their branding magic? Do not get me wrong, even I expect minimal cybersquatting. However, I do not buy the concept that TLDs will not bring social benefits overall. I guarantee you the big brands will change gear once new TLDs are introduced and be the first to innovate and use them towards their advantage. Does anyone actually believe that brands will not use them towards their financial advantage?

"Take music.us for example. You also own music.mobi. Now if .music is successfully launched, will you drop these registrations or simply point them to the .music registry website? If you had had the chance to acquire the term 'music' in other TLDs would you have declined that chance? "

I have declined many terms "music" in other TLDs. Those included ".net" and ".travel." I declined the first based on the price requested and the other one because I saw no apparent value to it. I do own music.us, music.biz, music.mobi, music.pro, music.fm, music.im and others because I see direct value creation potential in regards to music business, mobile, industry professionals, radio and messaging. Do not get me wrong here, once .music launches, I would do what is best for the extension to benefiting .music. We have not launched yet because we are waiting on .MUSIC. The delays have certainly resulted in lost income as well as not yet launching the platform we have built. So yes, there is an opportunity cost associated with everything happening at ICANN and new TLDs.

"Many website owners are protecting their brand name (for which may not have a registered trademark) by simply registering the .com or .net version of it. You seem to be thinking in terms of Big Brand protection and ignore these small website owners who have to deal with protecting their brands and their businesses."

Yes, I faced the same issue with the most recent .CO launch. I defensively registered a lot of my brands / company names not because I wanted to but because i had to. Also I missed out on some because I was not quick enough during the landrush. However, there is a key difference between and overly generic TLD eg. .CO, .SITE, .WEB over a specialized TLD such as .MUSIC or .HOTEL or .SPORT. I believe that overly generic TLDs with no specialized value added should not be launched. Those general TLDs pose the biggest danger for user confusion and exploitation.

The issue with brands is that you have many brands with the same name but are in different industries. Who defends what TLD? The new TLDs will take to time to get into the minds of consumers, let alone have a meaningful cybersquatting impact.

Constantine Roussos
.music

" Like you already mentioned, the brands John McCormac  –  Jul 28, 2010 3:07 AM PDT

" Like you already mentioned, the brands will find how to monetize the opportunity. On aggregate, they will find ways to make more money than they lose. You can not just claim "costs" from the release of new TLDs as the sole determinant. Profit is revenues minus costs. I outline the word "revenues" generated because all everyone talks about is "costs." "

Some large brand owners seem to work on autopilot. They may see brand protection registration in a new gTLD as a cost of doing business rather than a revenue generating opportunity (with all the costs that that involves). The other side to this is that a brand owner may consider that they should focus on a narrow branding for their brand. They may decide, as has Google, to use the .com as their global brand and the individual ccTLD domains as their country level market brands. The small brand owners, (those without a registered trademark), do think in terms of costs. They've already got a brand in their .com or .ccTLD domain/website and they have to protect that. For these brand owners, the registration in other gTLDs gives them some peace of mind. But they are not going to develop a website beyond their existing one and may just point the other gTLD domains to their existing website. It is the concept of brand ownership that is at the heart of this. Some see brand ownership as limited to the big brands with registered trademarks in many jurisdictions. However there are many more brand owners and they often have no registered trademarks.

" However, there is a key difference between and overly generic TLD eg. .CO, .SITE, .WEB over a specialized TLD such as .MUSIC or .HOTEL or .SPORT. I believe that overly generic TLDs with no specialized value added should not be launched. Those general TLDs pose the biggest danger for user confusion and exploitation. "

This trend towards specialised/targeted TLDs is actually an interesting one and they allow the registries to effectively frame the customer value proposition for registering a domain in these new TLDs. The ccTLDs would have been the traditional version in that they allowed a registrant to identify with that country or market. The .mobi TLD was device specific in that it targeted the mobile web and associated devices. The new city TLDs will have to contend with the local ccTLDs but some may do well. 

" The issue with brands is that you have many brands with the same name but are in different industries. Who defends what TLD? The new TLDs will take to time to get into the minds of consumers, let alone have a meaningful cybersquatting impact. "

This is going to be one of the biggest problems for the new TLDs. The premium domain auction approach has been one way of dealing with it. However the biggest issue for any new TLD will be in getting registrations. Sometimes I wonder if ICANN's thinking on new TLDs is in purely 1990s terms. The domain market has moved on to one that is far more diverse than the largely com/net/org market that existed in the late 1990s.

"Hoster"? John Berryhill  –  Jul 27, 2010 5:58 PM PDT

John,

I'm confused by your use of the term "hoster".

Are you looking at nameservers identified in WHOIS data, or are you looking at hostname A records in the nameservers?

Whois can identify a nameserver that has absolutely nothing to do with where a site is hosted.

A hoster is a webhoster grouped by John McCormac  –  Jul 28, 2010 2:32 AM PDT

A hoster is a webhoster grouped by its nameservers, John,
Basically the zonefiles are processed by grouping all a hoster's nameservers under the domain name of the host and using the domain name to identify the hoster. It is the same kind of shorthand that NameIntelligence/Domaintools.com and Dailychanges.com use. The processing these statistics is done at zonefile level rather than WHOIS level. What emerges is a landscape far richer and more diverse than the registrar level view. Based on com/net/org/biz/info/mobi/asia/ie/us domains, there are 5075 hosters with more than 1000 domains hosted, 33530 hosters with between 100 and 999 domains hosted, 32075 hosters with between 50 and 99 domains hosted, 154109 hosters with between 10 and 49 domains hosted, 270250 hosters with between 2 and 9 domains hosted and 795010 hosters with just one domain hosted.

Most people see the market for .com and the other TLDs as one simple global market. The problem is that it is actually a set of country level markets. While there are super hosters which are transnational (Godaddy, Enom and 1&1;) there is a high level of concentration of distinct country based markets with the bulk of a country's domains and websites hosted on those hosters and IP ranges. Depending on the level of maturity of a country's market, between 10 and 80% of a country's domains can be hosted outside of a country's hosters/IP ranges. As such a market matures the level of externally hosted domains will decline. When it comes to ccTLDs, that level of in-country hosting will increase massively so that over 80% of a ccTLD will be hosted on the hosters/IP ranges of the associated country.

Some of this data can be used to profile a particular brand before ever having to go near WHOIS data. If a number of ccTLD versions and gTLD versions of a domain are hosted on the same hoster and the websites all have the same IP and the domain in one gTLD is not hosted on this hoster and IP then there is the possibility that this domain is not owned by the brand owner.

The complicating factors are that not all ccTLD domain owners own the equivalent .com domain, the website data adds an extra layer of complexity and some domains' websites may be left parked or not set up. It is a very crude metric but it does work for the larger brands but the more fringe gTLDs that are added, the more problematic it becomes (perhaps it might require a weighting system with a .com having more importance than a .asia for example). The .eu fiasco was an almost perfect test for this simple brand profiling. The non-EU owned cybersquatted and cyberwarehoused .eu domains had a completely different characteristic to the typical EU brands and domains. In addition to many generic terms, the cybersquatters and cyberwarehousers targeted .eu versions of domains that were really small local brands in various EU countries. Thus the potential cyberwarehouser/cybersquatter hoster in .eu would have had, in most cases, a completely different profile (minimal or no Cross TLD domains) than a typical hoster dealing with an EU market. The irony is that this is exactly the basis for the kind of "inference engine" that Eurid was talking about developing in the Brussels ICANN meeting.

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