Companies should think hard before firing off cease & desist letters.
Comcast is getting dragged through the mud for sending a cease & desist letter to the owner of a domain name that has “comcast” in it, and there’s a lesson for brand owners here.
The domain name was registered by Fight for the Future, a pro-net neutrality group. The domain was registered for a site to shed light on alleged astroturfing and comment spamming to the FCC about net neutrality.
Comcast said it is no longer going to pursue its cybersquatting claim against the domain name.
Once you unpack the case, you can see how this happened.
LookingGlass sent its first cease & desist letter a few days after the domain was registered this month. That was before the domain name resolved to a website, so LookingGlass didn’t know the domain name would be used for something that would be considered a free speech use of the domain.
The domain name was registered with Whois privacy, so LookingGlass couldn’t determine who owned the domain, either.
So it’s not quite as bad as it looks.
However, this case shows the problem with firing off cease & desist letters based on triggers like registrations that contain a brand. If LookingGlass was paying attention, it should have noticed the unique domain name and thought about what it could be used for. A domain that with the term “astroturf” in it should have clued them into what the domain could be used for.
I see a lot of companies use automated means of detecting potential cybersquatting issues. That’s necessary and important for stopping phishing. But I also see them use automated means to send out cease & desist letters without fully evaluating each case. That’s bad.