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Billion Dollar Company Loses Key Domain Name

Silicon Labs loses domain name, fights to get it back.

Austin, Texas-based Silicon Labs (NASDAQ: SLAB) has lost control of a key domain name, SiliconLabs.com. The company has filed for arbitration with National Arbitration Forum to regain control of the domain.

Silicon Labs’ main domain name is SiLabs.com. But I suspect most people trying to find the company’s web site for the first time type in SiliconLabs.com, and a lot of e-mails are accidentally addressed to someone@siliconlabs.com.

So how does a company with a billion dollar market cap lose control of a critical domain name? A company spokesperson declined comment citing the ongoing arbitration, but a bit of research shows that the domain name expired. Records show the domain was due to expire December 21, 2008. After it expired it was purchased by a Utah man and pointed to a parked page. The domain was registered at Network Solutions and was likely auctioned off at NameJet when it expired.

It’s not unusual for companies without an adequate domain name management policy to have this happen. But Silicon Labs was doing some things right. For example, it created an email address specifically for domain registrations, dnsadmin@silabs.com. Presumably this forwarded to the person in charge of the company’s domain names. (I’m currently helping a company in Austin that has several different employee e-mail addresses across its portfolio of domains, which is a recipe for disaster).

Hopefully this big mistake by a billion dollar company will draw attention to the importance of having a good corporate domain name policy.

[Update: Silicon Labs won the domain name at arbitration.]

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  1. David J Castello

    I bet Silicon Labs allowed their webmaster or IT department to make the boneheaded marketing decision to use SiLabs.com instead of SiliconLabs.com as their main domain. Why would they do that? Simple. It’s because techies tend to look at domains in mathematical, not marketing, terms. In other words, to them, SiLabs.com, with 9 letters is a far better name than SiliconLabs.com with 14 letters. I’ve seen this happen countless times with our advertisers’ web sites. When I ask them why they would use abbreviations in their domain names, they always answer, “My webmaster said shorter was better.”

  2. Gerry

    @David J Castello “…always answer, “My webmaster said shorter was better.”

    This is exactly the gospel that was preached about 10 years or so ago. You are so dead on with this.

    I have worked in organization that employed nearly 250 IT people. Geeky fun bunch (if that is politically correct), computer and gaming whizzes but I can not thing of any one of them with a basic knowledge of domaining, let along know what a domain is.

    They are so in tune with correct speak for the IT world that they will tell you the “URL” but can not think of hearing them ever call it a domain.

  3. Rob Sequin

    Corporate domains should be managed by the legal department along with other Intellectual Property.

    For companies that think that a domain name is just a marketing tool for the marketing department, they leave themselves open for errors like this.

    Then, all of the sudden it is the evil cybersquatting domainer that’s at fault.

  4. Ross

    If they get this domain back it will be a very poor decision. If walmart doesn’t pay the bill for one of its store leases, loses the store and I come in and rent out that store space can they then sue me to get it back? If you let a domain lapse you forfeit all rights to that name and hopefully this person fights them tooth and nail for it.

  5. Bob

    Are there any other such cases where the lapsed domain was returned (or not)? Also what was some case on namejet with a guy who bids on behalf of companies who failed to renew it, “for a fee” to protect it against “cybersquatters”.

  6. Johnny

    @Ross….If Coca Cola loses CocaCola.com to a drop…..do they not have rights to the domain anymore? Of course they do.

    “Silicone Labs” is not generic IMHO….it’s a proper, invented name. The registrant should lose the UDRP…..he should only be buying generics. Now he will be labeled a squatter probably.

  7. Andrew Allemann

    Ross – not if it’s a trademark. Someone else could rent out WalMart’s space, but they couldn’t open up a store and keep WalMart’s sign there.

    Bob – I’d be surprised if SLAB doesn’t win.

  8. Ross

    Yes I even believe trademark names are fair game if you let them drop. Sorry to say but Verisign/ICANN/Registrars need to make money, to simply say a name can’t be re-registered by someone else after some company drops it because it is a trademark is hopefully something that won’t stand up in court. Remember trademarks can be invalidated if you fail to protect them, renewing your domain that you have a trademark is essential to that imho.

  9. Randall

    Wow, What a shame that is to loose a domain you built the company around. Thats got to be bad deal.

    They should have watched there email.

  10. Jeff G

    So some bozo types ‘www.siliconlabs.com’ goes to some squatter’s website. So what. Any intelligent web surfer would easily identify their mistake and use a search engine such as Google to look for the company.

    If this bozo were a customer and couldn’t find their way into the company site, they’re probably losers anyway and any company would very well have saved themselves from having to service someone who probably will fail in their endeavors anyway. Big deal.

    As far as blaming Silicon Lab’s IT folks… IT guys are a common scapegoat. This is so undeserved. Silicon Lab’s IT department could very well have been doing their jobs well. Perhaps helping someone out and getting them going. IT guys I know get a bad rap, but they’re probably the hardest working folks I have had the pleasure to work with.

    Now, to make a negative judgement on their capabilities just because of this non-issue? This is probably only an issue because the media has nothing better to talk about and is making a sensation out of this. I wonder why I am even responding to this lunacy. This is such a waste of my time.

  11. DR. DOMAIN

    Somebody is sooo fired.I think many companies still don’t recognize the value of domains.Even more surprising is that this happened in tech.

  12. eric rice

    Isn’t it just as simple as them suing the current owner for $100,000, and I bet he will then give it back. Maybe they should hire Verizon’s lawyer, as I bet he would not be fooling with arbitration.

  13. Couch Potato Gal

    Jeff G. wrote:
    So some bozo types ‘www.siliconlabs.com’ goes to some squatter’s website. So what. Any intelligent web surfer would easily identify their mistake and use a search engine such as Google to look for the company.

    Jeff, with all due respect, that is the problem. Domaining will have much less value if due to poor practices we push everyone to search engines. We should keep in mind that type-in traffic is where much of the real value of domaining is.

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