In other news this week the dot law domain name extension became officially available and some early adopters have been registering names with abandon. Given the limited success of other specific name extensions in the public sphere, how much attention should your practice be paying to the dot law move? It can be hard to tell. There have been several cases in which attorneys have gone at each other due to copyright and trademark issues over firm names and domain names. The reality may be that dot law is not a solution, but it may be a necessity.
The issue with domain names
The issue with domain names has been building steadily over the past decade. With the rise of use of the Internet by every man, the number of domain names registered has grown. It has almost peaked out the allowed space for the dot coms and dot govs are moving to protect their territories. Depending on where you are in the world, some countries are establishing digital borders and claiming extension like dot in and dot pk are only allowed for registered entities functioning within that country’s geographic borders. The Internet policy commission has approved the release of new naming conventions in order to meet the new demand for online identities. That has proven to open a can of worms when it comes to identity and trademark violations.
Protecting your online identity
It used to be that all you had to do to protect your identity online was to make sure you registered the top three tier names for your practice. With the explosive growth in domain name registration, and the complicated nature of search engine optimization techniques, even having your firm’s name as a dot com isn’t enough to make sure you are clearly identified in searches. There have been several cases in the US where startup firms where challenged, and lost, over the nature of their similar names to established practices. When it comes to trademark, the rules can be extremely foggy when it comes to defining identity. The push for industry wide adoption of dot law doesn’t appear to really be poised to clarify anything at all.
Will dot law make a difference with copyright?
The problem with using dot law to address copyright and trademark issues is that the popular culture still identifies dot com with the “real deal.” Early adopters are hoping that the specificity of the three letter designation will easily supplant the association in the public’s mind but the reality remains that people will still adopt for the dot com over any other naming convention. In order to successfully use this as your marketing identity, you will have to invest in SEO and real time publication.
If it’s an issue then you need to invest
One reason that you would need to consider investing in a dot law is if you are practices across jurisdictions. There is the chance that you could benefit from a geographically identified dot law name. What that success would depend on is making sure that clients can find you and that will require firms becoming more willing to invest in Internet marketing. Right now, dollars still go more towards the traditional billboard and print modes, but the tide may be changing.
Getting clients to find you
Recent statistics are showing that more and more people are using the Internet for information and to connect with local services. Adding dot law to your name isn’t going to push you out in front. There are considerations with SEO to make sure that the search engines can read and validate your website on mobile and desktop sites. With a careful strategy, you could turn dot law to your advantage if you are the early adopter in your town – but you also stand the risk of being excluded from current searches. The best practice looks to be a hybrid of the two with mirrored sites shared around until the dust settles on whether this naming convention is going to have an impact beyond the industry.