Bill Hartzer

Exclusive: Domainer Returns Domain Name to Amazon’s Jeff Bezos

Domainers, those who buy and sell domain names for a living, are not all evil. There are plenty of domainers that are smart business people, and then there are those who have a heart–like Bob Olea, who recently bought the domain name JeffBezos.com at an aftermarket domain auction and returned it to its rightful owner: Jeff Bezos of Amazon.com.

Mr. Olea, who owns domain names like ScienceBooks.com and hundreds of other generic, keyword rich domain names, saw the domain name JeffBezos.com, bid on the name, and ultimately won the domain name at auction. Domain names that are not renewed are oftentimes put up for auction by the domain’s registrar–before that domain name is released to the general public again for registration. Domain name registrar Network Solutions has a domain name auction website called Namejet.com that auctions domain names when they are not renewed by their original owners. Godaddy.com auctions domain names that are not renewed on their own website. It is a common practice for Domainers to constantly watch the domain names that are put up for auction, hoping for a chance to grab a valuable domain name.

Mr. Olea was watching the domain auctions when he noticed that JeffBezos.com, the exact match of Amazon.com’s founder Jeff Bezos, was put up for auction. The domain name was originally registered in 1999, and the current owner did not renew the domain name–thus it was put up for auction before being released to the public. Bob bid on the domain name, and won the domain name. He then contacted Amazon.com and Jeff Bezos, offering to transfer the domain name to him at no charge. After a few emails and phone calls, the domain name was transferred. Afterwards, Jeff Bezos’ personal business attorney sent Bob an Amazon gift certificate and a very gratious and respectful letter. Bob did not ask for or receive any additional compensation from the transaction.

I recently spoke with Bob Olea, who purchased the domain name JeffBezos.com and returned it to Jeff Bezos of Amazon.

How did you find that the domain name was available for auction?
“Like a lot of ‘working’ domainers. I normally spend a couple of hours every day scanning large lists of soon to be released and expiring names. To simplify and speed up this daily set of tasks I use some of the usual tools that many domainers use. This name popped up on a filtered list and immediately I was curious and did some additional research.”

Was your first inclination to return it to Mr. Bezos?
“Absolutely! I’m a big fan of Jeff Bezos. He’s by all accounts an infectiously happy and good hearted guy, and he almost single handedly changed the face of ecommerce. I read his story many years ago, and he’s always seemed like the kind of person that I would go out of my way to do a favor for. Maybe we’ll meet down the road sometime, and have a little laugh about this.

A lot of domainers feel like our domains are a bit like our ‘children’. I saw that name as one of his ‘kids’ that was about to wander onto the digital highway. Sort of like taking a wayward kid by the hand and gently bringing it back to their front porch. Domaining is still a pretty small community, and many of us actually look after each other. Sometimes it’s a referral for a name buy or sell. Sometimes it’s seeing a name that’s in your buddy’s ‘space’ and alerting them to it. What comes around goes around, you know?

I’ve made some great friends in the domain space over the last few years. Such an interesting and fun group!”

Did you think that there would be any trademark implications regarding the domain?
“I knew that this would not be a very defendable name, and if they ever decided to go after it, it would be stupid of any registrant of this name to try to hang onto it. But not everybody thinks that way I guess. I just didn’t like the idea of a true drop catcher snagging this name as it expired, so I decided to act and quietly bought it prior to that point.”

What would you have done with the domain name if Jeff Bezos had no interest in the domain?
“Well – I guess that I could have parked it, or forwarded it to Mr. Bezos’ page on Amazon, or to Amazon. Or something like that. Or just let it drop the following year. But I knew that they would want it. What online billionaire wouldn’t want their own .com name?!”

Considering that this has a happy ending, would you have done it again?
“In a heartbeat. Now, if it was for somebody that I DIDN’T like – I probably would have just ignord it, and let it find it’s own home.”

What would you like to tell your fellow domainers about domains like these?
“I’ve never been into typo/trademark/famous names. There’s people that have made a TON of money trading and monetizing names like that. It’s not for me though. WAY too much trouble IMHO. I wouldn’t recommend buying names like this, and I normally run the other direction from names that have any TM issues. I think that I have maybe 1 or 2 that would have a problem, and I bought those several years ago, when I didn’t have much knowledge of UDRP or WIPO law.

Now I check the USPTO site for TM issues. I also look at my brilliant friend David Lahoti’s site www.UDRPSearch.com for relevant UDRP cases that could affect a name that I may have any concerns about. I prefer to stay out of trouble, BEFORE I have to defend against a lawsuit. Lawyers are expensive! ”

Do you have any comments you would like to add?
“Bill – as you know, I was perfectly happy keeping this trivial little feel good story quiet. Like a lot of domainers, I like to keep a low profile. But you’re one of those people in our community that’s always willing to ‘lend a hand’, and after the 3rd or 4th request from you to blog about this I thought – why not? Like you said – it’s not very often that you get to hear positive stories about domainers, right?

So I would just say that it’s OK to do a favor for a deserving stranger once in a while, even in the domain space. It’s just good karma, and the rewards can sometimes go deeper than the favor. In this case – in the couple of weeks after this I had 3 really nice hassle free sales practically jump onto my lap! And I’m not a big domain seller!

Another time I sat with a friend at a conference a couple of years ago, and seeing that he was having some confusion about analyzing domain names, I sat with him for about 15 minutes and showed him some really cool shortcuts and ‘tricks of the trade’. Not state secrets by any stretch, but also not the kind of stuff that I would tell just anyone. But he was a nice guy that I enjoyed talking with. Fast forward a couple of years, and he emailed me out of the blue with an intro to a company that I’m about to do some lead gen business with on a few of my lending sites.

All coincidence? Maybe – but some would say that there is no such thing as coincidence, and that ultimately everything that we do is connected at some level. And I kind of like that philosophy! ;)”

Oh, and I ended up getting a warm intro to the person that makes domain buying decisions at Amazon. I do some domain brokering, so that may come in handy down the road sometime.

The domain business is built on relationships. The more relationships and goodwill that you can create in this space, the more opportunities will present themselves! And that’s just good business!”

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