It looks like the United States Postal Service (USPS) is on a UDRP filing spree. A search of pending UDRP filings at the National Arbitration Forum (NAF) shows 11 UDRP filings that have been made recently. These 11 UDRPs include nearly 40 domain names. Some of the domain names involved in the USPS UDRP filings include:
It is no surprise, but it looks like all of the domain names have USPS in them, so the Postal Service seems to be protecting its marks. I find it interesting that the USPS paid
On October 3, I blogged about the United States Postal Service’s campaign to make consumers aware of threats posed by scammers. In that post, I said that the campaign was great, but “the USPS should never have used a .org domain name where the .com is taken. If they needed to have that specific .org, they should have bought the .com for whatever it cost.” Well, as it turns out, the USPS did buy FakeChecks.com the following day. According to the Whois History service, they utilized the services of Sedo on 10/4, and it now shows the USPS as current owners.
Congratulations to the USPS for “getting it” both figuratively, and for litterally getting it, by purchasing the name they needed much more than the previous owner. Now all they need to do is forward that URL to FakeChecks.org, as the .com currently shows a “Welcome to Your New Virtual Private Server!” message.
Yesterday I blogged about the USPS’ new anti-scam campaign directing people to FakeChecks.org. The whole point of my post wasn’t to criticize the Postal Service – I think the campaign is smart and the message is good. However, I believe there is a good chance many viewers will end up on the wrong website, not owned by the USPS.
A perfect example can be found on the KETV 3 website, a Santa Barbara news station. Directly from their website:
“According to the US Postal Service, scam victims lose $3,500 on average and are often responsible to repay banks for the money lost. The Post Service met with officials and residents to issue warnings and give tips on how you can avoid being scammed. The US Postal Service and Postal Inspection Service have set up a website at www.fakechecks.com so you can report fraudulent activity.”
Whether we like it or not, many people automatically assume a domain name is a .com no matter what the extension is. This confusion could potentially lead people to the wrong website, as can be seen by this inadvertant news article.
I don’t check my corporate mailbox regularly because I don’t receive a lot of important physical mail. Just about everything I need comes to me via email. I visit my mailbox every once in a while so it isn’t overflowing to the point they have to package it up and ask me to wait in line to retrieve it.
On my last trip to the post office, I had a Priority Mail envelope waiting for me in the box. I opened the envelope and it had a letter from someone offering to sell me a domain name. The letter was pretty much a full page, and it had information about the domain name. The owner wanted nearly six figures for this domain name. To be frank, it is a domain name I would not even hand register, so I would never buy it nor could I recommend that someone else buy it. This is not the first time I have received a letter like this before.
One of the pieces of fallout of the US economic situation was the merger of Morgan Stanley and Smith Barney, two of the largest investment and financial management firms in the world. The new company dubbed Morgan Stanley Smith Barney began notifying customers of the name change earlier this month via USPS, and the letters were written on Morgan Stanley Smith Barney letterhead, although there is no url cited in the top or bottom of the letter.
The renamed organization does own the long MorganStanleySmithBarney.com domain name, but that’s a pain in the ass to type in and not typo. Clients can still log into their accounts by using MorganStanley.com or SmithBarney.com as they did before, but I would imagine something will change once the rollout has been completed to help with brand cohesiveness and recognition.
Although the domain name MSSB.com was registered and owned well before the merger, MSSB has done itself a major disservice by not acquiring the domain name already. Since the merger came together quickly and was announced quickly to help stem consumer concern, they didn’t have time to negotiate to buy a domain name during this period of time. However, in the months following, they have had plenty of time to acquire it as well as the resources.
The owner has one obvious buyer, and MSSB has an obvious motivation to get a deal done. Let’s hope both parties realize this and work out something beneficial. Every day that the new company operates, the domain name becomes more valuable.
Both companies do seem to understand the value of short domain names, with Morgan Stanley owning MS.com, and Smith Barney owning SSB.com (short for Salomon Smith Barney), although SSB.com doesn’t resolve any longer for some reason.
One of the best things about living in this country is that we have the ability to appeal to our elected officials in the hopes of having a proposed bill revised before it is written into law. The proposed Snowe Bill (S. 2661) has the potential to severely damage web-based small businesses (and any company that owns a website/domain name), and I am not going to stand idly. The Internet Commerce Association has information on contacting your local elected officials to express your concern about the bill, and I strongly recommend you do so if the bill will impact you. In addition to financially supporting the ICA, I have also emailed my senators, and I am going to send a letter via USPS as well.
Below is a copy of the letter I sent to my senator in New Hampshire, US Senator John E. Sununu. I fondly remember being introduced to his father (former New Hampshire Governor John Sununu), who was very concerned about small business growth in the state of New Hampshire. Like his father, Senator Sununu is also a proponent of small businesses in New Hampshire, and I hope the Senator will read up on my concerns and take action to alleviate them. This bill will impact anyone who owns a domain name or website if a larger company wants to take it from them. We need to make sure the bill does not pass in its current form.
Dear Senator Sununu,
I was born and raised in Nashua, New Hampshire, but currently reside in New York City. In 2006, I created a small business buying, developing and selling domain names, and my company (Top Notch Domains, LLC) is currently registered and located in New Hampshire. I do all of my banking in New Hampshire, and I hope to move back to the Nashua area once my fiancee finishes her graduate degree in New York. In November 2007, I was able to leave my job at American International Group (AIG) as a Senior Marketing Manager, to focus completely on my domain development and investment business. I am really living the American Dream.
Aside from always voting in local and national elections, I am relatively uninvolved in politics. However, I am writing to you today because a bill was recently proposed that in all likelihood will have dire consequences on the domain investment industry and my business, if it passes with the current language. Senator Snowe recently introduced a bill called the Anti-Phishing Consumer Protection Act (S. 2661) . While the name of the bill certainly sounds consumer friendly, the law itself opens the gateway for large corporations and/or various government agencies to seize control of domain names currently owned by small business owners like myself, which have absolutely nothing to do with phishing or other deceptive or fraudulent practices.
The two major targets of the bill, phishing and cybersquatting, are both already illegal in the US or against ICANN/WIPO policy. Over 85% of WIPO cases are won by the complainant, and 99% of all Lanham Act cases are won by the plaintiff, evidence that the systems in place are working. Additionally, most people who are committing these fraudulent acts live in Europe, Asia, and Africa, beyond the reach of the US justice system. I am very much in favor of eliminating phishing and cybersquatting, but I don’t think this bill will have any impact on these illegal practices.
The main concern I have is that the proposed S. 2661 bill would also make it unlawful for any person to use a domain name in connection with the display of a webpage or an advertisement on a webpage, if the domain name is identical or confusingly similar to the name or brand name of a government office, nonprofit organization, business or other entity. As the owner of the domain names Lowell.com and Salinas.com (among other generic domain names), I am very concerned that this could present the opportunity for potential litigation against these city domain names, even though owning them now is perfectly legal.
On my websites, I make it very clear that each is completely unconnected to the city government to ensure that consumers are aware that my websites are commercial ventures. My websites are informational guides to the cities, and I am very concerned that both of these cities could conceivably try to seize them, even though both city governments own their respective .gov extension. The language in this bill could put all my hard work and business plans in jeopardy. I have spent a considerable amount of time and money purchasing and developing these domain names into sustainable businesses, and I believe the language of the bill will enable others to put me out of business as the risk of owning these domain names would be too great.
Senator Sununu, I am asking you not to cosponsor S. 2661 or to vote in favor of it in its current form. I am asking that you oppose this legislation until its redundant, unbalanced, and unnecessary trademark-like provisions have been removed. The Internet Commerce Association, has put out a well-written paper on how this bill will impact my entire industry, and they are willing to work with you and Senator Snowe to revisit the language. I would sincerely appreciate your review of the ICA website and your efforts to improve the language of the pending Snowe bill. If the bill passes as is, I am afraid that I will lose my business. Please help.
ICA Position Paper: http://www.internetcommerce.org/Snowe_Bill_Threatens_Domain_Name_Registrants
Elliot J. Silver
Top Notch Domains, LLC