GoDaddy has been been awarded United States patent 7,130,878, which covers many aspects of domain whois privacy services.
In what could prove to be a major competitive coup for GoDaddy, the company was awarded a patent for so-called domain privacy services on October 31, 2006. The patent, filed for in July 2003, lists GoDaddy CEO Bob Parsons along with Joshua Coffman and Barbara Rechterman as inventors. The title of the patent is “Systems and methods for domain name registration by proxy.”
GoDaddy has made a mint over the past few years selling domain privacy services, in which registrants are allowed to hide their data from the Whois database. Although originally created to protect people from stalkers and spam, the services are now used frequently by people who own trademark and typo domain names and want to make it difficult for lawyers to track them down.
GoDaddy’s regular price for adding domain privacy to a registration is $8.99, although the company frequently offers promotions. Many other registrars offer domain privacy services. Some charge a fee although competition is causing many of them to offer domain privacy for free.
If GoDaddy’s patent withstands scrutiny, the company will be able to extract licensing fees from other registrars that offer similar services. Or GoDaddy could play hard ball and make these registrars use GoDaddy’s service (or nothing at all). Either way, this may prove to strengthen GoDaddy’s grip on the domain name industry.
Given the importance of domain privacy services, don’t be surprised if other domain registrars team up to fight the claims of this patent.
The patent abstract is as follows:
A system and method of proxy domain name registration permits a would-be domain name registrant anonymity. A registrar affords customers the opportunity to use the proxy registration. If the customer seeking registration of a domain name requests, the registrar obtains contact information needed for registration from a proxy entity established for this purpose. The registrar completes the registration of the domain name with the appropriate registry (i.e. “.com, .net” etc.). The contact information published in WHOIS is that of proxy entity. Contractually the customer is afforded control over the domain name. Emails intended for the customer are received by the proxy entity who may filter them if the customer requests. Emails sent by the customer are sent to the proxy entity who in turn sends them to the indicated addressee.