by Richard Keyt, Domain Name Law attorney

Obtaining a domain name is very easy, but finding a good one that works for you and that has not already been taken can be challenging and frustrating.  Over 271,000,000 domain names have been registered so it takes some creativity to find a domain name that will meet your needs.  Caution:  Just because a domain name is available does not mean that you can use it without incurring liability for trademark infringement.  See Trademark Law.

One way to obtain a domain name is to purchase an existing domain name.  One of the biggest side industries arising from domain names is burgeoning business of domain name auctions and sales.  Many web sites exist primarily to facilitate and derive income from sales of domain names.  One of the most successful sales sites is Great Domains.  Most of the domain names offered for sale are extremely over-priced.  The cheapest way to obtain a domain name is to be the first one to register it for annual fees as low as $5.

New domain names are obtained by contacting one of the authorized issuers of domain names known as a “registrar.”  For many years Network Solutions, Inc., had a monopoly as the only registrar of domain names.  Now, however, there are more than hundreds of authorized registrars that can issue domain names.  Competition has caused many registrars to substantially cut the annual fee to register a domain name.

To obtain a new domain name, take the following steps:

  1. Go to the web site of an authorized registrar.  I like Godaddy because it’s prices are competitive and it has very good tools for bulk administration of domain names.
  2. Use the registrar’s online search function to search to see if your desired domain name is taken.
  3. If your domain name is available, follow the registrar’s instructions to complete the registration form and pay by credit card.

You obtain a domain name for a period of one to ten years.  If a domain name owner (the “registrant”) fails to renew the domain name at the end of its term, the registration of the domain name will be revoked and the domain name may be acquired by another party.  I recommend that domain name owners register domain names for the maximum term possible, ten years as of the date of this writing, to reduce the risk that the domain name will be revoked for nonpayment of the renewal fee.