Back in May 2013 we posted on our Facebook page about the growing threat of domain squatters. When you have someone impersonating your company online and making a lot of money it’s obvious you want to set in motion certain mechanisms, and protect your investment. In my opinion, bottom line is, it’s not fair either.
I contacted Daniel Greenberg who is the owner and managing director of Lexsynergy, a company that specializes in online brand protection and domain management. They have offices in London, Vienna and Johannesburg, and clients from around the world.
Goran: Can you go back to 2005 and think about the beginning of Lexsynergy? Was it just yourself or were there any partners?
Daniel: Well it was just myself, when we started in 2005. It was at the same time when I had immigrated from South Africa to the UK. I was in UK when I decided to start the company.
I was in a new country and thought it was a good opportunity to start something new. I always had the idea of bringing domain names and the law together by offering corporates and trademark owners the opportunity to protect their brand in a cost effective manner.
The majority of Lexsynergy competitors are expensive and tend to exploit the financial resources of trademark owners without offerring comprehensive brand protection advice.
Our company name says what we do. Lex is Latin for law and synergy which is the combination of the individual component working together to create a greater force or greater cooperation. And that’s what really Lexsynergy is all about.
Bringing the law together with domain names to assist trademark owners.
Goran: In the beginning you said that when you moved to the UK you got the idea for funding the company. So it wasn’t the other way around? You didn’t move there so you could open the company?
Daniel: No I didn’t, but the UK gave me the means to open the company. The nature of the market in the UK is entrepreneurial. If you have an idea, it’s very easy to launch the foundation. I saved and used my own capital to start the company.
Goran: Have you noticed any major differences between 2005 and 2014. Could the solutions you were offering back then, solve the problems you are solving today?
Daniel: It really depends on what market you are looking at. If you are looking at US or Europe which are very sophisticated markets, things have changed. A lot of corporates and trademark owners are well versed and they know what to do. So it has made our job slightly easier.
In less sophisticated markets not much has changed in the industry and we spend a lot of time educating people about domain names. This forms a large part of our business .
Domain names have advanced especially in sophisticated markets such as cities like Vienna.
If people go to your website and see an old website, it could affect your brand. Gone are the days when your website was just a brochure on the Internet.
Goran: At the beginning you said that you wanted to bring together the law and domains and when providing your services emphasize the knowledge of the law. So was your experience, in the legal profession that attracted you to domains?
Daniel: I was training as an attorney at a South African Intellectual Property law firm when a domain name issues arose. An ISP forgot to renew a domain for one of the law firm’s clients and was re-registered by someone in Australia whose surname was identical to the trademark owner. It is for this reason they couldn’t get it back. As a result they lost the client. They then realized they had to get their domain names in order and since I was the youngest and most tech-savvy, I was given the responsibility for setting up their domain department.
Eventually I co-authored a cyberlaw textbook, contributing the chapter on domain names and trademarks. While working as an attorney I utilized the services of a corporate domain management company. It was then that I realized it could be a simpler with an easy to use interface because at the end of the day non-technical people are going to use the service. It needed to have a logical flow and then later you could add complex functionality.
I was young so I didn’t have the technical knowledge or the financial resource to commercialise my idea so from 2002 to 2005 it just remained an idea.
Domain names now a form of online trademark. Trademarks have moved from the offline environment to the online environment.
A young child can now take your logo and create a website to divert traffic potentially bringing a company to its knees.
You have to make sure that you are adequately protected and that mechanisms are put into place so that you can protect your trademarks. If someone infringes upon your trademark, for a week, on the internet that’s almost equivalent of 2-5 years of infringement in the bricks and mortar world. The amount of traffic that can be diverted in the matter of days is astronomical.
Goran: Would you say jour job is fun, or is it too serious to be fun?
Daniel: I really enjoy it! I think it’s very important to enjoy what you do.
It is stressful at times but does have its joyous moments. So when you balance it out I would say it is enjoyable. I enjoy being at the forefront of technology and advising brand owners. To know that you are a part of launching a new brand or protecting it is rewarding.
Goran: What is your main point that you focus on then recruiting individuals?
Daniel: Everyone that works at Lexsynergy is young and energetic.. We look for people who would treat Lexsynergy as if it was their own business. Even if you are a person who is answering the phone, we bring you in and you have the opportunity to say what would make your job easier or how you could improve our services.
By way of example one of our young staff members had an idea for a charity event to coincide with Nelson Mandela day. We took her idea and made an event out of it. If you listen to your staff you create an atmosphere so they see themselves as having a career rather than a 9-5 job.
Goran: Since you mentioned Nelson Mandela, and that you are registering a lot of African domains, Do have a strong presence there? Could you share a little more about the hidden potential and the risk in Africa for domain name owners and doing business there in general?
Daniel: I am South African so I have a goof understanding how the economy works in that region. After setting up our office in London we set one up in Joburg. Our local presence has allowed us to gain a large customer base in South Africa, as well as in other parts of Africa.. Not many of our competitors have entered the African market because it does not make commercial sense.
If you look at the population of Africa it far exceeds that of Europe or North America. Internet penetration is at around 10%, so if it increases by %5 that is a large number of individuals that could potentially use our service.
The other part of it is that many businesses want to invest in Africa and need protect their brand, which can be difficult. For example registering a domain in Swaziland, Chad or Niger is virtually impossible.
We picked some countries that we thought have potential such as , Ghana, Nigeria, Tanzania, Kenya, Chad, Ruwanda, Zambia andSouth Africa. As a result a lot of our competitors started using our services to register domain names in those countries.
In some cases you need local presence or fill out paper application. These regulations and manual processes have created a niche for us in the African market. Africa is not a saturated market like the US or Europe.
We work with one of the biggest telecom companies in the world who mainly offers its services to countries in Africa and the Middle East. Clearly, there is volume in Africa especially services that flow from mobile Internet services. It’s a big market but those who don’t understand it ignore it.
Goran: Do you have an interesting story of client problem?
Daniel: A major African medical insurance company that now has a presence in Europe allowed a domain name linked to the management of its domain names to lapse and be deleted. Since co.za (South African Top Level Extension) domain names were then managed via sending emails to the registry it was possible for any person who controlled the deleted domain name to transfer, update and/or delete any domain name connected to that domain name. .
We identified this issue and re-registered the domain name to protect this company. If another party had registered the domain name they could have shut down the company’s website and emails.
We informed the companies’ security officer about the issue and risk and explained that they needed to get their domains in order..
Goran: What would be the best free advice that you usually share with your clients? Anything that you usually go through with potential client?
Daniel: I usually advise them to secure their trade mark as a domain name in every country in which they trade or intend to trade. Also to register it in all the generic top level domains (com, net, org, info, biz, tel).
First register the .com domain, check on Google for that name if there’s no conflict then register the trademark. What normally happens is that companies pay a lot of money they get their trademark without securing a matching domain name only realizing later that they can’t register it, forcing them, to then, register an odd domain name such as mytrademarkbusiness.com It makes no sense spending money on trademark, and not having a matching domain name.
Goran: You spend a lot of time speaking about brand protection. Is it really that important?
Daniel: Just to give you an indication how important it is our brand protection department mainly recovers domain names. When we started we opened 1 case per week, now we have 5-6 cases a day. We file 3-4 domain name complaints a month..
The amount of infringement has increased exponentially.
Goran: I left out the last part of the interview with Daniel because he explained to me how squatters virtually extort money from trademark owners, so I don’t want to give anyone any “bright” ideas. Suffice it to say you should register domains in the countries you think are important for your business, and the few most known generic top level domains, and especially if you paid to get your trademark.