What Happens When an Angry Lawyer in Seattle Representing DocuSign Wants Their Domain Name Back
It’s 2009. I live in a council flat which is a 400 sq ft box. It’s not as bad as needles in the communal stairway, but it’s not being featured on Grand Designs anytime soon. It’s where I spent 12 years, mostly sitting in front of a computer pushing pixels around learning, playing, tinkering – trying to get a business off the ground.
To help the boredom subside, I’m on about my 9th attempt at what we know today as SaaS, and about my 12th configuration of layout out of this box I spend all my time in. I must have redecorated, reconfigured, rebuilt every square inch of that place 20 times by the time I left.
Sabrina and I had built a little digital signature platform, mostly cobbling together our own skills and outsourcing the bits we didn’t understand to the cheapest bidder on Freelancer, which was vWorker, which was originally RentACoder (Yeah, I’m that old). Spent the better part of 8 months building it, checking it legally with anyone I could, speaking to anyone I could about it and the feedback was really positive.
We might actually make it
We really felt like this was the one. The one that could get us out of this shitty box, these same 4 fucking walls which, no matter what colour you paint them, are still just as uninspiring.
See, this is what the days looked like. Waking up as early as I could to move the project forward as much as I can. During “working hours”, I’d flog as many websites as I could just because it brought money in and we could build them quickly. Then, in the evening, it was back to working on this digital signature platform that was going to bring us endless profits.
But we needed a name
So we drove around, and walked, and talked and tried to come up with a name and eventually settled on… SignBase.
This has potential. Quick Google search, all looked okay. SignBase.co.uk – available. Boom! We’re in. SignBase it is. We slap the logo and branding all over it and go to launch… aaaaaaand a mate messages me.
“You realise there’s a graphics tablet for signing digital signatures called Signbase right?”
“How long have they been going?
Back to the drawing board, until Sabrina says: “Doc… you… sign……… Docusign”.
That sounds cool!
123Reg… ‘docusign.co.uk’ – Available!
This is amazing. So, in our excitement, we changed everything SignBase to Docusign and launched. This was December.
1:21am, 19th January 200?_____.
New email with the subject “FAO Adam Hempenstall Re: DocuSign Inc”
I open it.
It’s some jumped up dickhead in Seattle working for some tinpot company in America called DocuSign. He’s claiming copyright infringement and we have their property, i.e., the docusign.co.uk domain name.
Before replying telling him to go deepthroat a cactus, I quickly go to docusign.com to have a quick look and see what this asshat is banging on about.
They’re proper. Not tinpot. Big. He might have a point. Lol.
However… Despite them being massive, I managed to go to the open domain market and buy their company name in their second biggest market for £6.09, including VAT.
Don’t be emailing me telling me how we’ve fucked up. You’re the ones who didn’t buy a domain name for £6. So, feeling quite proud of myself, but also realising we clearly can’t be running a digital signature platform called the same thing as the people who pioneered the space, I replied.
Dear Mr Cockwamble
You have a point and we will change the name. However, you can’t come at me telling me I’ve screwed up when your client didn’t even buy domain names in their biggest markets.
IF you want your domain name back, then you can have it. For the inconvenience, you can give me a healthy profit on my investment.
Send $100 to this Paypal email and I’ll send the domain over.
I have never been PayPalled $100 so quickly in my fucking life
It was at that point I realised I probably could have gone in a tiiiny bit higher.
Realistically, knowing what I know now, that lawyer was probably authorised to spend up to $100,000 to get that domain back without having to go to court, and all I squeezed him for was $100.
I was about 25. I didn’t know what on earth I was doing. If I’d had 50-100k dumped in my account, it’s not to say I would have spent it stupidly. I don’t think I would, but I now know what the 5 years looked like from then to the time we got Better Proposals off the ground.
You can’t A/B test life experiences, but anything that would have derailed my drive or alter the events in any way that led to us to getting Better Proposals going the way we did wouldn’t have been worth the risk.
So, in some ways, it’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever done. And looked at in a different way, it’s probably the best $100 I’ve ever spent.
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