Displaying posts tagged under "Cybersquatting"
Company goes after
ten37 typos of popular website.
A company created by the three major U.S. consumer credit bureaus has filed an in rem lawsuit against 10 typo domain names. [Update: The company actually filed four separate lawsuits against a total of 37 domain names.]
Central Source LLC was formed to operate the AnnualCreditReport.com website after the U.S. government passed the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) in 2003. The law mandated that consumers get free access to credit reports once per year.
The site has received a half billion visits in its first nine years of operation thanks to mandatory notices on other credit sites and lots of promotion by the Federal Trade Commission. This has naturally made the site a target for typosquatters.
In fact, Central Source owns 250 types of AnnualCreditReport.com.
The lawsuit (pdf) filed in U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Virginia (Verisign’s home turf) is against ten typos:
annualcreditfreport.com, annualcre4ditreport.com, annualcr5editreport.com, annualc4reditreport.com, annualcreditrwpoi1.com, nanualcreditreport.com, abnualcreditreport.com, annujaIcreditreport.com, annualxreditrepoi1.com and annualcrefitreport.com.
Central Source argues that these are probably owned by the same entity since all are registered at Above.com, Pty. Ltd., all use Above.com privacy, and all lead to pay-per-click pages or forward to third party websites offering services similar to AnnualCreditReport.com.
Billionaire fights back after finding his name cybersquatted in new domain names.
Billionaire entrepreneur Richard Branson has turned to two new tools to combat cybersquatting in new top level domain names: The new Uniform Rapid Suspension (URS) policy and Donuts’ “Domain Protected Marks List”.
Branson filed a URS case with the National Arbitration Forum in an effort to get the registrations for RichardBranson.holdings and RichardBranson.ventures suspended.
After noticing the domain names were registered, he also subscribed to registry Donuts’ Domain Protected Marks List service. By using this service, he has effectively blocked the registration of RichardBranson.TLD for any of Donuts’ other domain names.
The retail price for the blocking service is about $3,000 for five years.
His companies have also filed complaints against VirginGalactic.guru and VirginAustralia.holdings.
Lawsuit falsely presumes domain owner is offering to sell the domains. And that’s just part of the problem.
In December I wrote about a UDRP for BidPal.com filed by BidPal, Inc.
I noted that the UDRP decision against the complainant was probably correct, but that BidPal’s lawyer screwed up the research as well.
BidPal, Inc. has now filed a federal lawsuit(pdf) to get the domain name as well as “BidPal” in several other extensions. It also found itself a new lawyer who seems equally confused about domain names. That or he’s trying to mislead the court.
The lawyer, Overhauser Law Offices, holds his hat out as an IP lawyer with experience in domain name disputes. The only UDRP I could find that he did was a
loss on behalf of DISH Networkwin on behalf of the respondent in a case filed by DISH Network.
OK, let’s back up. BidPal Inc. uses the domain name BidPalNetwork.com. It admits that the reason it does this is because BidPal.com was already registered when it went to register the domain:
Because of Registrant Defendants’ cybersquatting behavior with respect to the Infringing Domain Names, BidPal has been forced to use another domain name. The name BidPal chose as the best alternative available was the far-inferior domain name “www.bidpalnetwork.com”.
Got it. So Bidpal.com was registered already, the company had to use a “fair-inferior” domain name, but it really wants the better domain name that was already taken. That’s part of the reason BidPal lost its UDRP. The three person panel found it wasn’t registered in bad faith as it was registered well before the company even came into existence.
So Overhauser and BidPal turn to the argument that the domain names were renewed in bad faith. I don’t like that argument, but ultimately the company has to make a stretch somewhere to make its case work.
The lawsuit also appears to be both in rem against the domains and against the domain registrant. The company says it hasn’t been able to get in touch with the domain owner, despite the owner responding to original UDRP. (Oh, and this case doesn’t mention anything about the loss in the UDRP, which I always find disingenuous.)
I question if filing in rem in Indiana against domains powered by multiple registries is going to work. Usually you have to file in the registry’s jurisdiction. If you want to get sneaky, go for an in rem in Verisign’s backyard for the .com, then work on the others.
Yet all of this is trivial to the big gotcha in the case, where either BidPal and its lawyer are trying to fool someone or it just didn’t do its research. I’m willing to assume the latter.
Here’s what the lawsuit tries to show bad faith by the registrant trying to sell the domain name:
The BidPal.com website redirects to a “parked” page (a free services offered by GoDaddy to websites which are not actively offering bona fide products, services and/or information). On that page, a visitor is invited to “Learn how you can get this domain [name].” Upon clicking on that link, the visitor is directed to an offer to engage a domain-buying service to acquire the name. An example of such an offer to sell an Infringing Domain Name, presumably made by either Peterre and/or InterMediaOne and/or InterMediaOne-AGB, is shown on the website at BidPal.com’s parked-for-sale page…
This “presumption” is wrong and the lawyer could have figured that out by doing a few minutes of research. GoDaddy places this link on a lot of the parked pages to promote its Domain Buy service. It has nothing to do with the domain owner. The product description itself states that they’ll just try to contact the domain owner to see if they’re willing to sell the domain.
Misleading or just poorly researched, I think this lawsuit stinks.
[Update: the parties settled and the plaintiff now has the domains.]
EntourageMovie.com and EntourageFilm.com hit with UDRP.
Filming has begun for the big screen adaptation of the HBO hit show Entourage, which follows movie star Vincent Chase and his entourage.
Someone behind the film–most likely the movie studio–HBO has filed a cybersquatting complaint with the National Arbitration Forum against the domain names EntourageMovie.com and EntourageFilm.com.
Both domain names are registered to a Florida man, Cody Thompson, although the ownership records have jumped around.
EntourageMovie.com was registered in 2007, and later expired and was re-registered in 2009. Whois records have shown owners in New Jersey, Hong Kong, Zimbabwe, Romania, and Virginia before Thompson became the owner.
EntourageFilm.com was registered in 2011 by someone in Glendale, California who later let the domain expire. Thompson registered the domain in 2013.
Update: HBO won the case.
Cybersquatting is motivated by profit, and it will be difficult to make money cybersquatting on new TLDs.
Much of the talk and consternation over introducing new top level domain names has focused on protections for intellectual property owners. Trademark holders have been worried about having to protect their brands in hundreds of new domain name extensions.
When it comes to cybersquatting, I think it’s clear that it won’t be nearly as big of a deal as it has been made out to be.
Here’s why: cybersquatters have a profit motive. Their goal is to either monetize traffic meant for a brand or to extract a ransom from the brand owner by selling the domain to them.
This works in .com and some popular ccTLDs. But it’s not so prevalent in domains like .biz, which haven’t gotten as much traction.
There are two reasons it won’t be very prevalent in new TLDs, either.
1. The domains will get little type-in traffic. I don’t see many people typing in something like gap.clothing on the assumption there’s a site there. Unless Gap promotes Gap.clothing, it’s just not going to get much traffic. There may be a few exceptions if certain niche TLDs take off, but those can be dealt with with URS and UDRP.
As with .biz, .info, and other domains, this takes away the monetization angle. It may, however, increase some cybersquatting/brand confusion in existing domains if people are confused by something like gap.clothing and go to gapclothing.com or gap.clothing.com.
2. It costs a lot to register many of these domains. Even if the domains get traffic, the holding costs might be too high. So far it seems that many of the new TLDs coming out are going to be priced at $30+. Cybersquatters have dumped millions of domains because they can’t make a profit on monetization at $8 per domain, so it’s certainly not going to happen at $30.
Some people will no doubt still try to sell domains directly to brands under the ransom model. There are fairly inexpensive policy mechanisms to respond to this. But more importantly, trademark holders can just tell the cybersquatters to go shove it. If someone comes to me and tries to sell me domainnamewire.plumbing, would I actually pay up for that?
Sure, brands will still have to look out for things like phishing. But even in phishing, the URLs are rarely that close to the actual brand’s domain name. Most phishers will just buy a cheap .info or .com domain instead, or obscure the phishing link with HTML.
Do you think brands agree with this assessment? I do, and there are some numbers to back it up.
I think most brands have looked at the new environment and decided it will be almost impossible, if not pointless, to register as many protective domains in new TLDs as they do in .com. So they need a different strategy that doesn’t include a lot of defensive registrations.
This is showing up in a couple places.
First, the Trademark Clearinghouse for new TLDs has only 23,000 registered marks. I don’t believe this includes TM+50 registrations, but I think most people are surprised at how low this numbers.
Second, look at Donuts’ sunrise numbers. Even if you add in the registrations that aren’t in the zone file, and the perhaps hundreds (maybe 1,000?) brands that chose a Donuts-wide block, the registration numbers are clearly nowhere near previous TLD launch numbers.
This isn’t a surprise to most people who have been in the business for long. Many TLD applicants have told me that other applicants who are banking on defensive registrations are going to be very disappointed.
I think they’re right.