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Sten Lillieström — 11/02/22

When Facebook changes its name there are lessons to be learned

Now that Facebook wants to be the biggest, best, and most beautiful in the tidal wave of new companies orbiting the hyped “Metaverse” – a virtual world said to be the evolution of the Internet – there is a risk of it coming with a hefty price tag.

Tons of lawyers are working in shifts to secure the term “meta” in all possible manners. At the same time, according to Jamie Zoch, who monitors domain movements, thousands of domain names are added to Facebook-controlled accounts. At one point he counted to 899.

– That is just a fraction, Jamie Zoch says on Twitter

Because the concept of “meta” still is relatively new, at least in this context, it is a delicate task, even for one of the biggest companies in the world, to have ownership of.

According to the world’s largest database of business registrations, Open Corporates, there are today 6,655 active companies with “meta” in the name. According to European Union Intellectual Property Organization, EUIPO, there are 47,806 registered brand names containing “meta”. To make matters worse, it was, already before Facebook’s decision, a very busy term when it comes to domains, and from the moment Facebook announced their re-branding project, domain speculators have more or less claimed all the remaining ones.

When it comes to Facebook, we will have to assume that money is a lesser matter. They paid $60 million to purchase the company that owned the rights to the term and the domain name Meta.com. The select few transactions that become known to the public are enough to establish that the company aren’t trying not to step on anyone’s toes when it comes to legal action or resources for shopping on the domain name aftermarket. Also the local markets and country code top-level domains are free game, according to the Swedish newspaper SVD.

It is difficult to make an estimate of just how many millions of dollars that Facebook are now spending in an attempt to gain ownership of the central term of their new direction – and many other valuable domains in the same niche. But aside from the magnitude, which might very well be the most extensive ever, there are some general lessons to be learned for all who run their business online. Because in whatever case, you, too, will need a name. You could be one of the largest companies in the world or the local flower shop around the corner. Same same, but different.

Sometimes, owning your name costs an arm and a leg. But that usually depends on which name you have chosen. Sometimes a pricy name could be well worth the cost. But it is perfectly possible to minimize your costs by considering it in time and take preventive and level-headed action. Situations in which the prerequisites of the company are very hard to purchase should be avoided if possible.

Some advice:

  1. Choose a name based on assets. It might be tempting to pick an established term or something that is on everybody’s lips, but it is better to be realistic. It is not going to work out “later”.
  2. Choose a name to grow with. Some names will paint your business into a corner. Avoid that. Businesses develop.
  3. Choose a name early on. It is wasteful in many ways to offer domains or social media accounts corresponding to your name to the highest bidder while your company is increasing their value.
  4. If you already have a name where part of what you need is taken, but have control of some, examine if it’s possible to gain control of the rest.
  5. If you have ambitions for high competition markets, hire an attorney to figure out which trademark protection you could reach, so that you in the future have more options for claiming your name.

The value of choosing and owning the right name and domain names is difficult and multifaceted, and often, and maybe that is why, difficult to prioritize. Often the company ends up with a domain name that does not match the company name, which might come with large invisible costs when all the acquired awareness and email is directed to the best domain – or in the worst case, a competitor. The value that might be in the name, including the one you create, will, so to say, benefit someone else. That is not good for business.

If you compare the two areas working with company names, the truth is not that easy to find. Trademark attorneys are mainly focused on what level of protection can be reached, and seldom think of a name in terms of what they can represent, as long as it can be well protected. Branding experts, on the other hand, consider names to be keys to finding the right personality and reaching the right frequency of users and customers, and do not always see IP protection as the primary thing.

The truth, as so often, is probably somewhere in between. It is possible to find an available and protectable name with both personality and potential. The right place to start is the domain name aftermarket, where Dotkeeper as a regular and well-recommended actor can investigate what is possible, and when required, close the deal. On the rare occasion that a domain name registration deliberately infringes on a trademark, Dotkeeper collaborates with AWA, who have experience with several successful disputes.

Don’t hesitate to contact us for help!