I'm debating on changing my startup's name. We provide online registration for events (for a specific industry type, not disclosing here). Our name already reflects what we do and I don't believe has hindered us in any way just yet but is pretty generic and I think a better name could make for better marketing of our startup. From surveys, everyone liked our idea for our new company name and thought it fit our company well and what we offer. Additionally it fits well with future services we're going to incorporate into our startup where our existing name is not bad but doesn't totally go with those future services. The main problem is that we can only get the .me domain name of the new company name we want. We've already registered that domain just in case we decide to use it. The .com is owned by another company related to our industry. They are not a competitor since they sell something totally unrelated to our services but to the same industry and same public/customers. So my thought it to partner with them offer free advertising of their products on our site (place a simple ad on very specific parts of our site) in exchange for them allowing us to place a link at the top of their site (in main navigation) to our site should someone go to their website (.com) instead of ours the .me. We have thousand of their potential customers viewing our site so I believe it would be worth it to them. Additionally, eventually I would like to buy them out down the road and sell their products as a secondary thing (& own their .com domain). I have not talked with the .com owners about all of this so don't know if they would be okay or not. Is this a good strategy or should we just look for another name or just keep the one we have? FYI, our customers (events organizers) link directly to our website from their website so participants can register for their event, so I'm not sure if the domain name is all that important. I don't image most people type in our domain name to register but we do see a small few do this via our analytics. In the future we're offering some additional services that are specifically for the participants (making them them more of our public/customers at that point too). Although participants do already pay us for registration for the events but the event organizer decides to use us for registration.
I'm not a .COM purist. In fact I own quite a few .ME domains and have sold half a dozen of them or so. However, building a business or brand on a non-.COM extension like .ME requires some additional analysis.
It's impossible to advise you on which name / domain to choose in the absence of the name itself.
As for the strategy of partnering with someone else just because you want their name ... that sounds excessively complicated, prone to misunderstanding, potentially expensive, and (since you haven't even approached them) a bit pie-in-the-sky. Trademark overlaps might also invite litigation.
I think you could use some professional advice. Let's schedule a call.
When push comes to shove, it is not about the domain at all. It is about the trademark... and he who owns the trademark wins legally. Doesn't even have to be same products or services - if they are in same industry they may be covered by same registered or even unregistered common law rights. And no one can register or own a generic name anyway. Get yourself a unique name and build your own brand, on a .com or .net or .org or .biz or soon .hotel or .travel or .xyz or .corp or .shop or .web.... all of these will be here within a year... so unless it is about you (me) don't go there.
I think you may be looking too deeply into the issue. I would just keep whatever name you currently have and move on, focus on growth and sales. I've rebranded small start-ups and it becomes a.) costly and b.) a headache that's seldom worth it. Rebranding/renaming usually is being driven by someone's ego (I'm not saying that about you, I'm generalizing) and at the end of the day the market/consumer simply does not care. By the way, if you want to see the most extreme example of 'rebranding wasn't worth it', buy a used DVD of the documentary "Startup.Com"
It is very possible to build a site on an extension other than .com and have it be successful. Just know that in the future if you're startup get's lots of traffic the owner of the .com will receive some of the traffic and it may confuse your current customers. On top of that if you do decide to buy the .com at a later time the owner will know the value and have risen the price substantially. It's best to try and acquire the .com asap if you plan to buy it in the future.