My attorney Wade Duchene has filed our response to the Uniform Domain-Name Dispute Resolution (UDRP) complaint made by MGM Studios over Wargames.Com. We're getting closer to the day where a panel of three arbitrators decides whether to give the domain to MGM, which owns a trademark registered in 2003 for the 1983 film WarGames.
UDRP arbitration is an increasingly popular tool for intellectual property lawyers trying to acquire domains for clients, as MGM's firm is attempting here. If they lose, all it costs is a $1,300 or $2,600 filing fee and their time.
The math's not as pretty for a domain name holder: You have to fight like hell to defend your rights against accusations of cybersquatting and anything else an attorney can claim to make you look dodgy, and all you get with a victory is to keep what you owned in the first place.
Actually, that's not entirely true. There's at least one benefit to me: I'm making new friends at the OfficeMax copy center and UPS Store. When I showed up yesterday to make copies of the UDRP response for some reporters, they greeted me like Norm on Cheers.
I'm also getting a great too-late-for-me education on how to reduce your risk of a UDRP grab.
If you own a domain you haven't launched and there's a trademark holder with a mark close to your domain name, you're vulnerable even if you've never offered it for sale. The time to defend your rights is before you've been contacted by a trademark holder. In a UDRP arbitration, the actions you take after that first contact are disregarded as self-serving.
My emphatic advice: Start your business today. Don't wait until everything's perfectly in place and the site's near to launch.
I registered a fictitious name statement in Florida in 2004 when I began work on Wargames.Com, which is my first (and only) retail business. That's probably the first step you should undertake. You can register a fictitious name, also called a DBA or do-business-as, with a service like MyCorporation.Com or do it yourself with your state. I paid around $50.
Registering a fictitious name tells the world you'll be doing business under that name, establishing a verifiable public record of your intent. I'll pester my attorney to explain how that helps.