Cease & desist letter claims infringement based on ISP’s redirect service.
Anyone who owns generic acronym domain names is well aware of the possibility of receiving a cease & desist letter from someone claiming rights to it. This is particularly prevalent with three and four character domain names, for which any number of companies may hold a trademark or at least use the acronym.
Some domain owners completely disable their acronym domains rather than park them, because the domain parking page may show ads related to a trademark. That appears to be what the owner of Teri.com did. The problem: an internet service provider or computer company hijacked the non-existent page and showed ads related to the trademark.
Yes, you read that right. You know how computer manufacturers install special software that redirects non-existent typos to ad pages? Domain Name Wire first broke this story by calling out Gateway, and Dell does it to. Internet service providers such as Time Warner’s Road Runner and Verizon also show these ads when a page doesn’t exist.
So with Teri.com not resolving to a web page, the trademark owner (or its lawyers Amster Rothstein & Ebenstein LLP) for “TERI” landed on this error page, and that page included ads for student loans (which the trademark is for.)
In the letter to the domain owner, which Domain Name Wire has received a copy of, the law firm states:
Since the web page also contains a message that teri.com domain name “does not exist or is not available” we assume that [Owner] is not responsible for the content of the web page. We further assume that [Owner] respects the intellectual property rights of others, including our client, TERI.
Based on the foregoing, we respectfully request that you promptly disable the current web page linking to teri.com [sic]. We also request that you promptly make arrangements to assign the domain to our client.
This is a foreshadowing of the legal troubles that Verizon (NYSE: VZ), Time Warner (NYSE: TWX), Dell (NASDAQ: DELL), and Gateway face for their error redirect “services”. Because most good generic domain names are registered, I suspect that 99% of error redirects are for trademark typos. The ad providers Yahoo (NASDAQ: YHOO) and Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) will also land on the wrong side of a lawsuit soon. (In this particular case, the ads related to TERI were delivered by Yahoo.)