You’ve been operating your small business for a few years and discover that someone has registered your domain name and put up a website. Or maybe you had a website but the domain name expired and you forgot to renew it in time. Now someone has a competing site up, or is just serving ads at people who are searching for your business.
There are a few ways to get that domain name back. First, and often the easiest, is just to ask for it back and pay a few hundred dollars to whomever registered it. Though, its not unusual for people to try to extort unreasonable sums of money for a domain.
If your business has a distinct name, you could try to get the domain back through legal means as well.
One option is the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP). Set up by the group that has control of domain name registration, it’s an administrative procedure to reclaim a domain name that was registered in bad faith.
Another option is bringing the bad guys to federal court. If you have a registered trademark, you can file an action under the Anti-Cybersquatting Consumer Protection Act. Again, the domain name must have been registered in bad faith, and you must have a registered trademark in order to file a suit.
In the end, these are all costly alternative to registering domain names early, and renewing early. The cost of a domain name is typically under $15/year, and pales in comparison to the costs of litigating a domain name dispute.