If you plan to do business on the Internet, don't procrastinate on registering your business name as an Internet "domain name." Richard Shaffer, owner of the 16-employee newsletter publisher Technologic Partners, in New York City, learned that the hard way. When he looked into getting on the Internet last year, Shaffer was disappointed to discover that his most obvious choice, "technologic.com," was already taken by a company with a similar name.
About 90% of new Internet users register their domain names through their Internet service providers, says Scott Williamson of Network Solutions, in Herndon, Va. Historically, anyone has been able to claim any untaken name. That's changing -- as John Katzman, founder of New York City-based Princeton Review, can tell you. For Katzman's former Inc. 500 company, which sells test-preparation services, the Internet is a good way to communicate with potential customers, many of whom are Net-savvy students. So Princeton Review registered not only the name "review.com" but also "kaplan.com," after its arch-rival, Kaplan Educational Centers.
The people at Kaplan weren't amused. In an October decision suggesting that trademark law applies to Internet names, an arbitration panel ordered Princeton Review to give up the kaplan.com name. Still, Katzman urges other entrepreneurs interested in Internet business to register their names soon. "If you're a huge company, you're probably not as vulnerable," he says. "But if you're a smaller company, a 'United Something,' somebody is going to get that name before you do."