One of the more unusual aspects of my job as General Manager of a large portfolio of premium domain names is that I see all the "poison pen" letters from lawyers representing clients who believe (usually incorrectly, I should add) they are legally entitled to a domain name that we own. Since we own over 100,000 domain names, we get quite a few of these letters every week!
I make sure that we respond to each and every one of these inquiries, and now that I've seen and dealt with hundreds of these letters I wanted to make a suggestion to the marketing community at large:
"You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar."
Admittedly, I didn't come up with this age-old concept, but I'd like to remind people that you will have better luck resolving a dispute - any dispute - by playing nice than by being hostile.
For instance, the next time you think that someone owns a domain name that you think you are legally entitled to, don't make your first move a "nasty lawyer's letter."
Instead, just reach out to the current owner with a courteous phone call or email (which you can get from checking the public WHOIS records) and let them know you have some questions or concerns. You might discover that the current owner is a lot nicer than you think, is not a hardened criminal, and is more than willing to negotiate in good faith. You might even learn that the original basis for your complaint is flawed and that - surprise, surprise - you aren't legally entitled to the domain name after all.
Not only will you save yourself the time, hassle, and significant expense of going the legal route (fighting a domain name dispute can cost many thousands of dollars), but you will begin the dialogue on a positive and constructive basis, not an adversarial one.
I go out of my way to help the small minority of folks who approach me nicely and are willing to listen to and consider our side of the story. Between us, we can usually resolve the situation within a few days. Unfortunately, I can count these "honey" folks on the fingers of one hand.
I'm not so sympathetic towards the "vinegar" folks - those who courier me six-inch thick stacks of legal documents that make all sorts of false accusations, ridiculous demands, and set unrealistic timelines for a response. (One law firm did this to me, quite deliberately, on Christmas Eve, two years in a row.) Sadly, these "poison pen" letters make up the vast majority of inquiries I receive. Sure, we respond to them as well, but I'm not going to cut them any slack or do them any favours. Why should I?
In the end, this boils down to one simple suggestion: be nice. ;+)
(A version of this post originally appeared on the Canadian Marketing Blog.)
Domain name expert Bill Sweetman is the President & Lead Ninja of Name Ninja, a boutique domain name consulting firm that helps companies acquire, manage, protect, and profit from their domain names. Bill has provided strategic domain name advice to major companies around the world for over 20 years.
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