07|20|2007 12:50 am EDT
I was sent this article about sports teams and domains today from the folks over at WiseGeek. It talks about all the sports teams in North American (Note: Canada has teams too WiseGeeks). WiseGeeks does their homework in detailing the teams that do and don’t own their own namesake. The power of a great domain appears to be lost when it comes to the owners of NHL and NFL teams. The MLB and NBA seem to be doing much better in terms of domain ownership, but not 100%.
The National Hockey League (NHL) has by far the lowest percentage of team name domains, where just 27% of their teams’ domain is an official team site. Nearly half (14/30) of hockey team names names are actually parked with ads! The next lowest with official ownership is the National Football League (NFL), which has just 50% of their team name domains. Major League Baseball (MLB) and the National Basketball Association are remarkably close, with the former owning 77% of their team name domains and the former owning 80%.
A number of the domains that are listed in this post and not owned by the teams on these lists can obviously serve multiple purposes and uses. At least 2 of the domains listed have been challenged under the UDRP.
In a $150,000 restraint of trade lawsuit filed at the end of 1999 in U.S. District Court in Toledo, Steve Weber alleged that the National Football League interfered with his right to sell DOLPHINS.COM and JETS.COM, two domain names he registered in 1997. The case was dismissed on July 31, 2000, but an appeal was filed immediately. In August, 20 filed a UDRP proceeding for these names.
That particular UDRP case was terminated. The names are now owned by another domainer. Obviously since many of the domains are being parked, I’d suspect a lot of these domains not owned by teams are owned by domainers. So, I’d also imagine there are other cases with domain names being challenged by the respective teams (maybe that can be the WiseGeek followup piece), but the fact that these are all generic words and can have multiple meanings and uses makes it nearly impossible for these teams to claim any exclusive rights.
One other thing that I found amusing in this post was the part about Mark Cuban
One domain to highlight is mavericks.com; the Dallas Mavericks are owned by legendary internet entrepreneur Mark Cuban who sold broadcast.com to Yahoo for over $5 billion. One might expect that of all owners, Cuban would be the one to recognize the importance of domain names and brand management.
The links on Mavericks.com being all related to basketball doesn’t really make for a strong defense, if Cuban were to go after the domain under the UDRP. Obviously, that’s just my opinion, I’ll save that stuff for the attorneys.
Rick Schwartz had lunch with Cuban a year or so ago after winning the honor at a charity auction. With this example, it doesnt appear that any discussion or attempts to convey a message about the power of domain names made an impact with Mr. Cuban. Oh well. At least if Cuban would buy the Cubs he’ll have 1 team with their namesake domain.
The WiseGeeks make one final attempt at the bottom of the post to wisen up these teams of their marketing blunders.
Trademark domains are invaluable for many reasons. Obviously, strong branding is important, and that works hand-in-hand with garnering type-in traffic. For these reasons, we would expect professional sports franchises to recognize the value of having their domain and team name be identical.
Coach Strong would like to add his 2 cents …”Recognizing this value does not mean that the domain name ‘belongs’ to your organization. Additionally, your trademark on your team name can only take you so far in your quest. The odds are against you losing in any sort of claim of exclusive rights (such as UDRP) as most of these domains have all the qualities that make them purely generic. Come up with a new play. That’s not going to get you there. The other side can dance circles around that move. There may also be multiple trademarks on the particular name you are seeking, so using the TM play is no good. Obviously, consult appropriate legal counsel, but a good strategy in obtaining one of these domains would to be to team up with better players who know the game from playing it. Work with an attorney or professional domain broker who is familiar with negotiating these sorts of deals and you’ll score your goal much more efficiently. ”
Thanks to the WiseGeek Lindsay for sending this to us . . . and I suspect she just might be the writer of the piece too. ;)
Cuban picture from MSNBC