Company cites global domain name protection as risk in S-1.
Ancestry.com has filed to go public. It’s another example of a great business built on a generic, category-killer domain name. But in its S-1 filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the company cites challenges acquiring country code domain names as a risk:
If we are unable to protect our domain names, our reputation and brand could be affected adversely.
We have registered domain names for website destinations that we use in our business, such as Ancestry.com, Genealogy.com and myfamily.com. However, if we are unable to maintain our rights in these domain names, our competitors could capitalize on our brand recognition by using these domain names for their own benefit. In addition, our competitors could capitalize on our brand recognition by using domain names similar to ours. Domain names similar to ours have been registered in the United States and elsewhere, and in many countries the top-level domain names “ancestryâ€ or “genealogyâ€ are owned by other parties. Though we own the “ancestry.co.ukâ€ domain name in the United Kingdom, we might not be able to, or may choose not to, acquire or maintain other country-specific versions of the “ancestryâ€ and “genealogyâ€ domain names. Further, the relationship between regulations governing domain names and laws protecting trademarks and similar proprietary rights varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction and is unclear in some jurisdictions. We may be unable to prevent third parties from acquiring and using domain names that infringe on, are similar to, or otherwise decrease the value of, our brand or our trademarks or service marks. Protecting and enforcing our rights in our domain names and determining the rights of others may require litigation, which could result in substantial costs and divert management attention. We may not prevail if any such litigation is initiated.
Although category killer domain names like Ancestry.com can be great for launching a business, this risk highlights a downside: it’s particularly difficult to protect your brand. Ancestry isn’t a trademark by itself, so persuading an arbitrator or judge to hand over the domain (or even a similar one) in a different top level domain could be tough. Hotels.com is struggling with this same issue.