Several years ago I heard a story about Exxon and Mobil merging. Supposedly, some smart guy jumped online, found the URL exxonmobil.com was available, and grabbed it. He then sold it to the newly formed corporation for $5 million.
Because this is how free enterprise works, right?
So when Monsanto and Bayer announced their merger I looked for opportunities online and bought 8 URLs. Getting into my second year of ownership, I reached out to Monsanto’s VP/Marketing and offered them a chance to buy these domains.
Six months after my suggestion that we talk I heard from the Zurich-based World Intellectual Property Organization. They advised me they were investigating a complaint from Bayer that I’d stolen these domains. I showed how I’d owned them, paid for them legally, and just happened to get there first.
Bayer went after me because their feelings were injured. I guess when you’re a $55 billion multinational corporation you can do that sort of thing.
As I explained in my defense, Monsanto and Bayer have 135,000 employees between them, while I’m a little guy. Obviously I was not trying to deny them use of their name.
And if I’d kept my mouth shut they wouldn’t have missed these domains…or one day they might have come knocking on my door if they ever figured it out.
But greed won out and the international court ruled that Bayer/Monsanto gets ownership of these domains. The domains were ripped from my account without so much as a reimbursement for the current year’s fees.
I’m fascinated, since when someone bought two domains that incorporated my agency’s name, she had free reign to hustle my clients and try to steal my business. But the big guys get to write the rules the way they want them, and a small guy like me ends up on the short end.
So much for beating city hall.
Rereading this column, it sounds whiny…not my intention, and for which I apologize. But if you’re thinking of pulling a stunt similar to mine, be forewarned that you may end up doing some mega-corporation a favor and they won’t even say thank you.
Meanwhile, I’m done with these experiments…though I’m certainly not going to tell Monsanto about the domains purchased in someone else’s name.
With that said, I wish you a week of profitable marketing.
Get solid, practical marketing advice at www.askmrmarketing.com.