In this era of technology, it is almost certain that most startups would utilize social media as a platform to promote and sell their products. However, when your company grow in size, your workload gets heavier. It is virtually impossible for you to handle all the orders by hand, and thus, you need automation. In other words, you need an actual website to accommodate such a sales system. Then, the question is, how do you create and maintain a website?
What is “domain name”?
In simpler terms, “domain name” is an internet address. It represents your company and enables your customer to identify a website of yours.
Typically, a domain name in Hong Kong looks like this:
This domain name can be broken down into the following parts:
- showing that it is a worldwide web address
- the domain name that you have registered
- Indicating the category of domain name, as known as a top-level domain name
- There are other common alternatives to “.com”
- Educational institution
- Non-profit organization
- Indicating the country of origin
Choosing a domain name
Domain name is representative of your company. A good domain name can immediately relate your customers to your company. As a branding strategy, most companies use their own names (be it full or abbreviated), or a keyword of their business as domain names.
However, as there are hundreds and thousands of companies that have similar name with your company, it is best for you to check the availability of your intended domain name.
How to make sure a domain name is available?
To check the availability of a domain name, you may first consult one of the domain name registrars. In Hong Kong, domain name registrars are regulated by Hong Kong Internet Registration Corporation Limited. It keeps a list of domain name registrars in Hong Kong (See Additional Resources no.1). The availability of a domain name can be checked through any of these registrars (see Additional Resources no.2, for Reserved List of domain names which are NOT available for registration,).
Even if a domain name is available on these registrars, it is not a guarantee that you can use the domain name without attracting liability. It is desirable to ensure that your intended domain name would not be same, or likely be confused with another person’s (1) business name, (2) company name, (3) registered trademark, or (4) domain name.
The HKSAR Intellectual Property Department suggests a 3-step due diligence exercise:
- Search company names through the Cyber Search Centre of the Companies Registry (See Additional Resources no.3)
- Search trademarks that are already registered at the Trade Marks Registry (See Additional Resources no.4)
- Search on the web to see whether the domain name is not occupied or is not strikingly similar with others
If your intended domain name passes the above tests, you may apply to any of the registrars, accompanies with evidence of your entitlement to the domain name e.g. copy of your Business Registration Certificate, Certificate of Registration of Overseas Company etc (See Additional Resources no.5 for the documents required).
Knowing your rights and duties over a domain name
It is not the end of the story after you obtained the domain name from the registrars. You have to be aware of your extent of rights over the domain name.
- Right to use the domain name
Once your application for registration of domain name is approved, you have the right to use the domain name as your address on the internet, subject to your compliance with (1) the Registrar’s registration policies and (2) the Registration Agreement.
- Registration does not constitute ownership
Registering a domain name does not mean you have ownership over it. You cannot use the registration as evidence for your ownership of the domain name.
- Paying the requisite fees to the Registrar
It goes without saying that you should pay the Registrar the fees agreed upon. Otherwise, non-payment of fees is a recognized ground for the Registrar to cancel your domain name registration. Immediately after the cancellation, your domain name would enter a “black-out period”, meaning that the domain name will not be available to the public yet. Therefore, if you pay the renewal fee and other outstanding fees, you may reinstate your registration of the domain name.
- Duty to ensure that the domain name does not infringe legal rights of any third party
Corresponding to the previous section, you have to check to your best knowledge and belief, that the domain name would not violate the legal rights of any third party. Although domain names are not protected by copyright, it may be protected by the law if it is a reflection of a registered trade mark. Therefore, double-check if your domain name overlaps with that of others. Conversely, if you suspect that others infringed your rights over domain name, seek help from lawyers.
For more details on your complete set of rights, refer to “Domain Name Registration Policies, Procedures and Guidelines” published by Hong Kong Internet Registration Corporation Limited(See Additional Resources no.6).