Romney and Ryan Don't Have So What?

By Doug Isenberg Two and a half years before Mitt Romney picked Paul Ryan as his running mate, a domain name speculator registered <>.

According to a Reuters article, the <> domain name was just one of about 70 that Peter Crowley registered, apparently hoping to cash in should one of his picks match the ticket.

But, as of this writing -- one week after Romney selected Ryan -- Crowley's efforts have been unsuccessful. An auction to sell the domain name, with a starting bid of $5,000 and a "buy it now" price of $100,000, has attracted no bidders.

Indeed, the Reuters article quotes Crowley as saying: "I had a few private inquiries, but nothing from the campaigns. I've reached out to Mitt's campaign, Obama for America, the DNC, the RNC and their respective Super PACS. But nothing."

So, what now?

Obviously, I can't predict what will become of the <> domain name, but the facts so far offer a few lessons:

  • The Romney campaign likely could not rely on a UDRP complaint to obtain control of the domain name, because the campaign probably does not have trademark rights in "Romney Ryan" (a requirement for any UDRP proceeding) or, at least, it did not have trademark rights when the domain name was registered in 2010. Numerous political candidates have tried and failed to use the UDRP to their advantage. Just ask Meg Whitman, the former eBay CEO who lost a UDRP decision for <>, <>, <>, <>, and <> when she was running for governor of California.
  • In any event, the UDRP surely would be too slow for the Romney campaign, since a decision typically arrives about two months after filing a complaint. Thus, even if the campaign could somehow win a UDRP proceeding, the domain name would not be transferred until October, that is, less than a month before the election.
  • Regardless, having a .com domain name that matches the candidates' names is far from essential to a successful campaign. Mitt Romney already has and uses <>, which was registered in 2002. And, a Google search for "romney ryan" is dominated by paid listings and news articles (although, interestingly, the website using Crowley's <> domain name does appear, lower, on the first page of results).
  • A domain name matching the candidates' names is not necessarily a winning ticket. For example, although the domain name <> appears to be controlled by the Obama campaign (it was registered in December 2006 -- 20 months before Obama picked Biden), the domain name is not being used. Instead, the campaign relies on <>.

Interestingly, this will likely be the last presidential campaign before the number of top-level domain names expands. So, in 2016, candidates and speculators also may be able to register domain names ending in .vote, .voting, .democrat, .gop and even .best, .cool and hundreds of others.