How Gateway and Google Are Infringing Your Trademark
Monday, May 14th, 2007
Some of the world’s biggest companies are also the web’s biggest typosquatters.
I’ve written several times about how Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) is one of the world’s biggest typosquatters. The company sues people who register typos of its brands, but when users type a non-existent web address into many Internet Explorer browsers they are sent to a Microsoft search page. This page includes sponsored links, from which Microsoft earns money.
But Microsoft is not alone. Many large companies are teaming up to snag typo traffic and generate money.
I recently purchased a Gateway (NYSE: GTW) desktop computer. Gateway struck a deal with Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) to add an application called “Browser Address Error Redirector” to Internet Explorer. This application serves up a page full of ads when you type in a non-existent URL. What’s worse, it even redirects non-existent subdomains.
Here’s an example for Azoogle, an affiliate program provider I use. Azoogle’s actual web site is AzoogleAds.com, but when you type in Azoogle.com it forwards to AzoogleAds.com. The login page for affiliates is login.azoogleads.com.
Sometimes I accidentally type login.azoogle.com instead of login.azoogleads.com. I forget the ‘ads’ at the end of the URL. login.azoogle.com doesn’t exist, and Google’s “Browser Address Error Redirector” serves up a page of advertisements. Gateway and Google share the revenue from these ads.
Note above how Browser Address Error Redirector forwards to a page hosted by Google. The invalid URL is the second highlighted field.
The good news for trademark holders is that these redirect pages are often horribly targeted, showing ads for insurance and mortgages when a page should be about affiliate programs. But If I type BestBuyyyy.com into my browser, the ads on the page include paid ads for BestBuy:
Alas, at least Gateway is an equal opportunity typosquatter. Type Gatewayyy.com into the browser and I get a page full of Gateway ads.