Recently, the Cleveland Diocese forgot to renew its domain name and was shocked to find that instead of their website, a Russian-based porn site resided there. "One of our religious education ministries inadvertently didn't renew its domain name and we are investigating how a Russian porn site got it," said Brooklyn Diocese spokesman Frank DeRosa in a recent UPI story. As dreadful as this may sound, it is not just an isolated case.

This year over 15 million domain names will be coming up for renewal, per Network Solutions. If you do not renew your domain name when it comes up for renewal, someone else might grab it under from you.

Last year a very well known brokerage company?s online operations were reportedly halted, because they forgot to renew their domain name. Lucky for them they owned the trademark, so they were able to re-acquire it. However, without a trademark, you probably wouldn?t be as lucky!

To compound the problem, there are dozens of domain name registrars and as crazy as it may sound, many of them will fail to notify you when your domain name comes up for renewal.

What can you do if your domain name is registered with one of these companies? What can you do to protect your domain name from someone taking it?

First, check to see when your domain comes up for renewal. Go to your domain registrar and see what their records show (probably in their ?whois? database). If you don?t remember, you can go to Verisign?s whois directory to check the records on your domain name. Near the bottom of the record, look for ?Record Expires on?? This is the date your domain expires. If your name was registered by a company other than Verisign (formally known as Network Solutions), it may not give you everything, but you?ll know which company?s database to check.

Second, renew your domain name for more than one year. Now you can pay for up to 10 years registration. Remembering to pay once a year is difficult. Paying once for the next 10 years provides 9 fewer opportunities to forget your renewal premium. NOTE: Make sure you remember to notify your domain name registrar of your email changes or this may further complicate your future renewal or domain name transfer (i.e. if you move your website to a different hosting company).

Third, if your domain name is your brand, trademark it. If you have a national trademark for your brand/domain name and you loose your domain name, you are protected. This is the only real protection against domain name theft (other than prevention). The fee to submit a national trademark application is only $350 (per category). However, this is not the easiest process and it takes over one year to complete after submittal. A good trademark attorney can provide some invaluable assistance here.

The more steps you take to protect your domain name now, the less likely you are to experience the theft of your domain (and potentially your business) in the future.