A reader interested in creating a commercial website that sells products (shirts, hats, mugs, etc.) emblazoned with the name of the site asks what they need to register. That’s a great question, particularly since more and more people are unleashing their inner entrepreneur online.
Actually, there are several registrations that you’d want to consider. The most obvious one is registering your domain name. The domain name is your online web address and there are numerous domain name registrars who can provide that service for you. Plug in the phrase “domain name registrar” into your favorite search engine and you’ll fine one that meets your budget. Registering a single dot com domain name for a year is relatively inexpensive, and typically runs under $15. However, you may want to register a few variations of the chosen name to help build a protective moat.
Why do I say that? Common misspellings of your domain name can lead to lost traffic and lost sales. If you own those variations you can redirect traffic where you want it. It’s also useful to secure the domain name with other common domain extensions, such as dot net and dot org. Believe it or not, a law firm didn’t realize that and found themselves the subject of a gripe site using their name in the form a dot net extension. See my earlier series on gripe sites: part 1, part 2, and part 3.
Are the domain name possibilities infinite? Probably, but for a relatively small cost you can keep a griper from using the most important ones. The main thing is that they’re out of mischievous hands. But the nice part is that you can use them to redirect and drive more traffic to your primary site. It gives you a bigger bang per buck.
You might also want to consider applying for a trademark registration for the name or phrase you plan to use for the site name and your merchandise branding. AllBusiness.com offers an article that helps explain the process. You can read it by clicking here. It’s always nice to be able to place a TM or an R in a circle next to a distinctive word or phrase. But what’s even nicer about obtaining a trademark registration is that if you use it and maintain it properly it allows you to keep others from using it or a confusingly similar name. So if you happen to miss out on buying a domain name variant that we talked about above, you can use your status as a trademark holder to go get it.
The cost of obtaining a trademark can range from a do it yourself filing fee directly with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office of a few hundred dollars to engaging an online service or a trademark attorney who can do a comprehensive trademark search to make sure the name or phrase you want to apply for isn’t already being used in your product category. The more comprehensive approach can raise the cost on average to about $3,000.
If your business is a start-up and not already registered in some shape or form, you might also want to consider a business registration as well. There are a number of choices. You can choose to be a sole proprietorship, a partnership, or a corporation. Pricing can vary greatly depending on your state and which option you choose. There are some informative articles on the subject right here at AllBusiness.com. You can find them under the Topics tab and then under Starting a Business. This podcast helps explain some of the differences between business structuresas well as this checklist. If your business is already up and running, you might still want to evaluate whether your online presence should be protected with a “doing business as” (DBA) registration.
Sorting through these items might seem overwhelming. But figuring it out up front will save you time and money in the long run and create a solid foundation for your business success.