Amazon's ban on amazon.be
Since the end of last year, the American e-commerce giant Amazon has had its own Belgian website. Previously, Belgian customers could already surf to the French, Dutch or German variant, all found under the domain name 'amazon' followed by .fr, .nl or .de respectively. It is therefore remarkable that Belgian customers now have to surf to amazon.com.be, because anyone who surfs to amazon.be ends up on the webpage of Amazon Insurance, an agent of insurer Baloise. How could it be possible that an internet giant like Amazon could not obtain the rights to this domain name?
‘First come, first served'
The reason for this is that domain names work according to a general "first come, first served" principle: the rights to a domain name in principle belong to whoever registers it first. The domain name amazon.be was registered by Baloise back in 1997, when Amazon had only been established for 2 years and was not yet active in Belgium at all. Resulting in Amazon being forced to search for an alternative.
Eventually, Amazon opted for the domain name amazon.com.be. A less obvious choice, but there is still a link with amazon.com, the domain name which Amazon uses for its activities in the United States. It is also interesting to note that this domain name is actually a derivative of the main domain com.be. After all, a domain name consists of at least a Top Level Domain and a Second Level Domain.
The Top Level Domain is the end extension (e.g. ".eu"), the Second Level Domain is what precedes the end extension and is separated by a dot (e.g. "remarkable"). Additional levels are possible, and each level is separated by a dot. The additional levels are called subdomains. However, in order to register a subdomain, you first need the rights to the main domain. From this follows that the person who has the rights on a main domain, can create as many subdomains as he wants. Amazon was able to obtain the rights to the main domain com.be, and could therefore create the subdomain amazon.com.be.
Preventive registration is the key
This case shows that it is extremely important to register all relevant domain names in time. By thinking ahead and by taking into account possible geographical expansions of your business, you can avoid similar problems. Generally, the cost of registering a domain name is very small, making it more cost-efficient to register all relevant domain names preventively, rather than incurring a lot of costs later when trying to get your hands on a domain name that has already been registered.
In spite of the "first come, first served" principle, it is still possible to react against a domain name registration under certain conditions. For example, in virtue of your trademark rights, you can react against confusing domain names registered by competitors or by third parties trying to obtain sensitive data from your customers (phishing). This is why we offer the following new service: Domain Name Monitoring.
Domain Name Monitoring
This Domain Name Monitoring means that we will monitor a certain name and report all confusing domain name registrations for this name. You will receive a monthly report with the relevant domain names that were registered, with the results ranked in risk categories. In this report, we will also identify infringing domain names and provide you with recommendations for further action.
By doing so, you will stay informed about confusing domain names registered by competitors. This allows you to monitor all possible infringements of your intellectual property rights, even when this third party only uses a confusing name without registering it as a trademark. Moreover, this domain name monitoring also allows you to act quickly and cost-efficiently in cases of phishing.
By means of our Domain Name Monitoring, you can react very quickly and cost-efficiently against infringing domain name registrations that cause confusion with your own domain name, trademark or trade name. Do not hesitate to contact us for more information.