This Halloween week we are looking at some terrifying tales all connected with domains. With the US election just around the corner, we thought we’d look at Donald Trump and his team’s approach after letting some domains with the Trump name be bought by someone else.
We assume Team Trump is experienced and proactive when it comes to protecting the Trump brand online with over 3,000 domains in their portfolio. Not only do they have a history of buying domains associated with the Trump name but will proactively secure domains containing negative viewpoints. As an example, when Trump went into the drinks business in 2005 with ‘Trump Vodka’ not only did his team buy associated domains such as trumppunch.com and yourefiredvodka.com but they also registered trumpvodkasucks.com and ihatetrumpvodka.com.
“Mr Trump has built a globally-recognised, highly successful brand and it’s only natural he would attempt to protect his name and his brand in all respects,” Trump campaign spokeswoman Hope Hicks said.
Team Trump seemed to have overlooked the popular .org and .tv extensions which were relevant to Trump's TV exposure and so in 2012, these domains were bought by Chris Puchowicz for $1272 and $251 respectively. What might have been a small issue, quickly turned into a nightmare for Trump.
Back in 2012 Donald Trump was mostly known for his appearances on the American version of The Apprentice and Chris bought the domains and placed a single message on the website relaying his feelings that Trump was “a self-serving man.’’
Less than a week later, Chris received a letter from Trump’s lawyer Alexis Robinson who claimed that the use of the Trump.org domain was “wilful trademark infringement and cyber piracy.” Alexis also threatened to sue Chris for $100,000 unless he handled over the domain, for free.
Chris didn’t concede and his lawyer, John Berryhill, argued that it was fine to use the domain as a “non-commercial gripe site” given the fact that Trump is a public figure. Chris won the case but this negative interaction with Team Trump lit a fire. Rather than having a static website with a single line of text, both websites became dedicated Anti-Trump news sites with regular updates.
“Instead of purchasing the domain at the public auction like anyone with a little foresight and common sense would do, Trump waited until I bought it, then tried to threaten and bully me to get the domain for free. This is precisely the type of guy that I was hoping to warn America about.” said Chris in an interview with The Washington Post.
The national press picked up the story and to this day both websites are still owned by Chris.
So how would Lexsynergy have handled the case differently?
“The first thing to note is that it’s quite possible that Trump’s team did try and buy those domains at auction. It would be incredibly foolish to turn up to a public auction wearing your Trump branded blazer and start bidding on the domains. This would obviously raise the price quite considerably! Whenever Lexsynergy are buying domains on behalf of clients, we take an anonymous approach.” says Robert White, Brand Protection Manager.
“What this particular story highlights is that going in all guns blazing and threatening a lawsuit is quite often not the best approach. You have to bear in mind that when Chris bought these domains, Trump was primarily a TV personality, and this was long before there were any glimpses of political aspirations.
Thorough investigation is key with any domain dispute or online matter. Even without doing the research, I would hazard a professional guess that although Chris may have disliked Trump, it is quite likely he may have acquired those domains with the thought of reselling them at some point in the future.
His anger towards Trump was really ignited by the threat of a lawsuit. Overzealous policing can often result in bad publicity, tarnishing the reputation of the brand owner and end up causing more harm than the original issue.
If we were representing Team Trump and attempting to recover these domains, rather than threatening to sue, we would have advised Donald to explore calling Chris directly. This could have been an easy way to diffuse the situation and potentially reach an amicable resolution. By speaking to the man behind the TV personality, Chris may have reassessed his evaluation of Donald Trump and be more open to transferring the domains. Even if Trump offered to buy the domains at a slightly higher price, Chris would have felt as though he had achieved a victory over the business tycoon and Donald Trump would have recovered the domains of concern.”
Team Trump continues to proactively protect their brand and buy any domains containing the President’s family names or associated ventures. They clearly understand that the cost of domains is small compared to the potential damage others may cause when owned.
In 2013/14 many more domain extensions were released, and there are now more than 1000 available. Lexsynergy understand that with so many domain extensions, protecting your brand has never been more complex. Understanding which extensions you need to secure, if it’s possible to block that extension from being bought and how best to secure a domain from a third party is not straightforward.
If you are looking to protect your brand online, and want to work with a company that takes a considered approach based on many years experience, contact Lexsynergy. We have a niche in online brand protection and have won 100% of our domain disputes. Contact Scott on: [email protected]