Domain investors often believe domain names are the most frequent target of overbearing trademark holders. That isn’t always the case as evidenced by a recent lawsuit. According to Page Six of the New York Post, singer Jimmy Buffet is suing Six Flags theme parks for infringing on his trademark rights. Six Flags has a 10,000 member “Carrothead Club,” for children who are fans of Bugs Bunny. Buffet believes the name of the club infringes upon his trademark, “Parrotheads,” as his fans are known. The New York Post says that Six Flags has “no plans to discontinue the club.”
LexisNexis, the leading legal information database, launched a new guide focused on domain name law. As domain name ownership becomes more mainstream, it has become essential for attorneys to be knowledgeable about various aspects of domain name law. From trademark owners protecting their rights to domain name owners protecting their valuable assets, legal representation is more important now than it has ever been in the past.
Some topics covered in the new guide include:
“Formal and informal dispute procedures, with analysis
Extensions currently associated with each jurisdiction
Registry contact information
Access to lists of known accredited registrars
Registration and transfer processes and procedures
Renewal terms and processes
Chapter appendices setting out forms, registry policies, examples, and other hard-to-find, practical information
Thousands of direct links to domain registries and other important sources of information on the Web” — Source: DomainInformer.com
While this information will be invaluable to lawyers who are new to the field of domain name law, there are a few experienced lawyers who I can either personally recommend, or I have heard positive things about from others. A few well-known and respected domain name lawyers are listed below with their website contact information:
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.
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.
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.
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
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