Which domains should our association register?

The question of which domains your association should register seems far more obvious now than it did during the early days of the internet. In fact, most associations have a fairly stable set of domains that they have registered and used for several years. However, while your association may be content with your current set of domains, you may still find it in your best interest to register additional domains. 

Here are a few reasons why:

– Does your association offer unique or important services or products under a branded product name? For example, if your association has a popular publication with the name “This Week in Medicine”, you may wish to obtain the domain name of thisweekinmedicine.com/org and/or twim.com/org.

– Does your association offer programs that are an extension of the association name? For example, if your association’s acronym is SMMC, you might offer educational programs through “SMMC University” or “SMMCU”. In that case, you may wish to register “smmcuniversity.com/org” and/or “smmcu.com/org”.

– Your association may have a branding policy that all products and services are offered only under the main web site. In our fictitious association, that might be “smmc.org”. In that case, your association may never actually need to use the domains that were mentioned above. However, registering the domain does something else important: it keeps others from taking them and using them.

For example, an educational services company that wishes to target your industry may register “smmcuniversity.org/com”. Is that ethical? No. Is that legal? Probably not, depending on various laws and whether your association has a trademark for the acronym and name. Is it likely your association would prevail in a lawsuit over the domain name? Very possibly. But in doing so, the association would have likely spent a tremendous amount of money in the process. Therefore, even if your association doesn’t plan to actively use a domain, it may still wish to register it as a form of inexpensive insurance. The mad rush for domain names is over. However, it may still be in your association’s best interest to obtain a few other domains to protect its intellectual property and avoid the need for legal action in the future.

Please note: Because laws vary by state and country, it is important that you discuss all of the issues mentioned in this article with your association’s legal counsel before taking any steps.

Does your association maintain domains beyond the core domain used for your main web site? Do you actively use the other domains or merely have them for defensive purposes?

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