Basic Training: Is It Kosher to Take Former Employer’s Domain Name?

Posted on February 2, 2017 in IP & Social Media

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Q: The website of my former employer (which is my “competition,” sort of) seems to have a lot of issues, and I know his domain will expire later this year. Just for background, a few years ago he purchased a domain that matched my company name (with a hyphen) and made it a redirect to his own site. Pretty nasty, but I didn’t contact him about it, since I didn’t think this was really pulling any traffic away from my own site.

Anyway, I want to purchase his domain name when it expires. Is there anything I need to watch out for, legally, if I buy his domain and make it redirect to my own website? He can’t sue me for that, can he?

A: Generally, when it comes to ownership of domain names, it’s on a “first come, first served” basis. So if the former employer’s domain name became available and you snapped it up, that could be the end of it if the company is going to go out of business.

However, if the company stays in business and you happen to jump on the domain name before he has a chance to renew it, you could run into difficulty. You could run into an unfair competition claim. In addition, as a former employee, you want to look back at any agreement you may have signed when you left the company to make sure that you don’t run afoul of any “don’t poach my clients” clauses.  If you only want to grab his domain name so that you can do to him what he did to you several years ago, you have to question whether the potential of thousands of dollars in legal fees is worth the $10.87 for the domain name.

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