Legal News

Ignorance is no Excuse

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Candidates locked in name game over Web domains

I’ve been seeing quite a few articles about politicians buying the domain names of their opponents, but I haven’t seen something as blatant as what the lady in the aforementioned article has been doing. The lady apparently believes that she can buy the domain names of realtors, doctors and other professionals in the hopes of selling to them for a profit. I think this is a case of ignorance more than anything else, but it certainly isn’t right. This is straight-up cybersquatting.

As domain investing becomes more mainstream, educating new investors is going to be important. I believe it is the job of the registrars’ to educate their buyers. Companies like Godaddy have gone mainstream, but I believe they are failing to educate their consumers. You wouldn’t leave out seatbelts in a Ferrari, so registrars should educate their buyers on the laws of cybersquatting and the penalties they could bring. As I said in this post, consumers should have “to check off a box acknowledging that they are aware of the Lanham Act and its penalties before every registration.

Someone needs to give this “domain reseller” a clue.

Lulu Sues Hulu

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Lulu site sues News Corp

No, it’s not a joke – Lulu.com has sued News Corp and NBC claiming that their recently announced Hulu.com video sharing website infringes on its trademark. There are currently 184 live and dead trademarks for the term “lulu” according to the USPTO database. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

BEWARE OF DOMAIN-NAME HIJACKERS

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BEWARE OF DOMAIN-NAME HIJACKERS

This article in the “Your Biz” section of MSNBC gives a great suggestion if your business needs to create a website and don’t want to lose it to a domain hijacker. More and more, I have seen articles about different domain hijackings that are plaguing the industry. Most domain professionals take extra cautions when protecting their assets, but I bet there are many businesses who might not know how to protect their domain name assets.

As recommended in the article, never give ownership or overall control of your domain name to a web developer. If necessary, allow the developer to be the technical contact but never the registrant. If the developer is the legal registrant, he technically owns the domain name and controls it. It could be time consuming and costly to get the domain name back if the developer takes off or disappears without giving you control of the name. Also, keep in mind that he would control all of your emails if you use the domain name as the root for your email!

I’m not sure if it still happens today, but one thing I heard about a few years ago was web developers who bought the domain names of local businesses and offered to build a website on that business’ domain name. Some business owners who didn’t realize this was against the Anti-Cybersquatting Act presumably paid the developers for the domain name and for their design services when they weren’t obligated to do this.

Once domain ownership becomes as common as property ownership, I believe it will become more difficult to pull off these types of scams. Until then, it is best to manage your own domain names because they are valuable assets. You wouldn’t allow your business’ deed to be in the name of your contractor, and you shouldn’t allow your developer to control your domain name.

Hijacking Domain Names for $200

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Sahar shows us why it is of utmost importance to protect your email accounts in his blog entry, “Hijack A Domain For 200$.” Apparently there is a website out there that can says it can get any email account password if you pay them $200. To prevent your domain names from being hijacked, Sahar recommends:

“to have your domain either on your own registrar or with one of the top registrars for professional domainers such as Moniker.com or Fabulous.com, and ask them for personal attention for any sort of transfer away of your domains from their registrars.”


I don’t know whether domain hijacking is happening more often or if it’s just becoming more publicized, but I have heard quite a bit about this lately. In fact, I received a poorly written email from an unknown person about a good name that was for sale. I checked and the name was registered to a company of the same name, so it seemed odd that it was for sale. I did a whois check, same info for the past 8+ years; However, the day before, the email address changed to a Hotmail account with all other info the same. I called Network Solutions in addition to the owner to warn her and left a voicemail. The next day, I received a thank you email as another domain investor also called and spoke with her, detailing what he thought happened. Because of quick thinking, we were able to save a nice lady from losing her name.

Here are some tips I would like to add to help prevent you from buying a stolen domain name:

1.) Do a Whois history check
-Did anything recently change?
-Does something seem strange in the Whois history like a different email address just added?
-Length of domain name ownership is a good way to tell if someone has all rights to the name

2.) Call the listed owner
-If the email address just changed, the owner will tell you the name isn’t for sale
-Conversation is frequently avoided by scammers

3.) Call/email the former owner
-They will tell you if they sold it (or if it was stolen)

4.) Search the forums/Google for any information that may raise red flags
-Stolen domain name posts
-Spam references on Google

5.) Do a WIPO/UDRP search
-May not be a anti-theft tool, but just make sure the history is clean

6.) Always pay with Escrow
Escrow.com, Sedo, Moniker or Afternic offer this service

7.) Never pay with money order or cashier’s check
-Difficult to track
-Many scams involve counterfeit checks/money orders

8.) Only buy from the listed registrant
-Don’t attempt to buy from the technical contact if it’s different from the registrant
-Technical contact doesn’t necessarily own the name, but may just manage the domain name

9.) TRUST YOUR GUT!
-If an offer is too good to be true, it probably is
-If the terms the seller is requesting seem strange, question them

American Airlines seeks damages against Google

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American Airlines seeks damages against Google
American Airlines filed a lawsuit against Google for selling Adwords related to its trademarks (including “American Airlines”. Personally, I think the claim is ludicrous. In my opinion, the term “American Airlines” is about as generic as they come. Why can’t US Airways, another “American airline,” purchase the keyword “American airlines?” Why shouldn’t anyone who sells anything associated with American airlines buy this particular keyword? Perhaps searchers are looking for the airline, but maybe they are just looking for information about an American airline.

I hope Google fights this and wins, because this claim seems over the top to me.

Working With CADNA

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I think there are reasons why people might want to consider supporting CADNA in their public goal of defeating cybersquatters and domain tasting/kiting. I believe most of the big organizations that support CADNA are simply trying to protect their brands/trademarks rather than go after generic domain names. Although Dell probably would kill for Computers.com or CustomComputers.com, they are more interested in making sure a typo name like DelComputer.com isn’t owned by someone other than them.

Dell (and similar companies) believe when a web surfer types that in to their browser, they are actually trying to get to Dell, so why should they have to pay to correct the error, and why should a cybersquatter be able to direct traffic to other computer companies when the person is looking for Dell and not someone else?

On their press release, CADNA stated, Cybersquatting is defined “as the bad-faith registration of a domain name that includes or is confusingly similar to someone else’s trademark.” This leads me to believe they want to protect trademark holders from obvious infringing domain names. As it stands at the present time, the domain tasting loophole basically allows people to register domain names for 5 days or less, and then they can drop these names. They are able to test the traffic, and they can make business decisions on which names to keep based on traffic, revenue, and of course the risk in owning it.

As of yet, trademark holders have been unable to act fast enough to respond to domain tasters, and that is where the problem is. I think there are significant hurdles that need to be overcome, as there is much grey area. For example, would Dell believe that a name like Del.com infringed on their trademark simply because the spelling was similar? I know that Dell owns Del.com, but what if they didn’t and the name were parked? There are many examples like this, and those would have to be overcome.

However, in the short run, I think it would be in our best interest to work alongside with CADNA, to ensure domain owner rights are kept in mind, while trying to stop people who blatantly trample on the rights of trademark holders using the domain tasting loophole.

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