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Defending Your Brands Against Typosquatters

July 11th, 2013 Comments off

If you follow any court decisions on domain name disputes, you probably know that a significant amount of domain name typosquatting still exists despite attempts to quell it.

Typosquatting occurs when someone registers domain names that are mistakenly close in spelling to an established brand name/domain name.  Typosquatters receive traffic when someone mistypes a domain in their browser’s address bar — think domainetools.com instead of domaintools.com — and it can be an extremely profitable venture for them in some cases.

World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO)  and the National Arbitration Forum (FORUM) regularly adjudicate and report on domain name disputes..  Many decisions simply result in the transfer of domain ownership, very little impact, financial or otherwise, is felt by the typosquatter in these instances.  However, certain companies are becoming more active in their pursuit of individuals who are doing significant amounts of willful brand infringement in domains.  You may have heard back in May that Facebook claimed victory in its case against typosquatters on 105 domains, with statutory damages of $2,795,000.   We expect more similar pursuits and announcements, especially with the impending wild west of new gTLD launches later this year.

So, how do you begin to protect yourself against typosquatting? Where do you start?  Here are two initial steps to improve your brand protection:

  • Proactively register obvious trademark and copyright typos before someone else does.   At $10 per domain per year, this is some of the cheapest ‘insurance’ you can buy.  A variety of tools are available to do to help you, including our own Domain Typo Finder tool.  We take your domain and apply each of the common sets of typos to it and then check the availability of that typo.  It is good practice to review registered domains to discover potential phishing and fraud sites and take action.

  • Utilize a brand monitoring service that also looks for typos of your brand string in registered domains.  DomainTools’ Brand Monitor operates this way by monitoring for string sets.   For more information on our Brand Monitor, please refer to this  previous blog post.  By taking swift action against infringing domains, you have a much higher chance of defeating typosquatting.

Those two options may be cost-prohibitive.  Defensive monitoring of registered domains may be the best alternative.  After all, some “typo’s” are legitimate.  Take a look at one single character swap of two unique and viable businesses:  www.wine.com  vs www.dine.com.  That single character swap may be a common typosquatting pattern, but it is not always in bad faith.

DomainTools has been investing heavily throughout 2013 in new tools to help Brand owners protect their intellectual property and trademarks online.  Please stay tuned to this blog for new product announcements later this year!

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FICORA investigating large cybersquatting case involving 886 .FI domains

June 11th, 2012 Comments off

The Finnish Communications Regulatory Authority, operator of the Finnish ccTLD domain .FI, is examining close to one thousand deliberately misspelled Finnish domain names of popular Finland based companies and internet services. A total of 886 .FI ccTLD domains are currently being closely examined. All of the domains in question were registered at a single Maltese based domain registrar but listed under a Finnish holder, according to a press release by FICORA.

FICORA has contacted both the Finnish domain name registrant and the Maltese registrar for more information. The investigation is on-going. Meanwhile, the Maltese registrar’s capabilities to process registrations of new .FI domain names has been denied until further notice.

.FI ccTLD Domains

This case is extremely unique, because you don’t often see the actual registry operator get involved in these types of situations. There must of been a tremendous amount of pressure and/or legal threats being made towards the operators of the small ccTLD, for them to take such an aggressive approach.

As of this writing, there are 295,308 .FI domain names registered, according to the official .FI registry website. There are 323 active domain registrars that are currently accredited by FICORA, in other words licensed to be able to resell direct to consumers. These domain registrars allow users from around the world to register .FI domains.

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Facebook quietly scoops up typo domain: wwwFacebook.com

June 10th, 2012 Comments off

It looks like Facebook has finally gotten control over one of the most popular typo variations of it’s website. As Fusible first reported a few days ago, according to DomainTools.com historical records, wwwFacebook.com had expired in late May of this year and was listed on the SnapNames marketplace available for a backorder.  The previous owner used whois privacy protection services from Moniker to keep their identity hidden.

Facebook Domain

Fusible goes on to say “while many companies have been forced to file complaints to secure rights to their “WWW” typo domains, it appears Facebook acquired the domain name through the brand protection company MarkMonitor.” It is not clear whether the previous registrant simply handed over the domain when demands/threats were made, or whether the domain registrar (Moniker) got involved and did the right thing by transferring the domain to it’s rightful owner.

As of this writing, the domain name wwwFacebook.com currently does not resolve to anything or forward to Facebook.com. The domain is now registered and held with MarkMonitor, Facebook’s domain name registrar of choice.

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How To Stop Typosquatters from Stealing Your Email

September 19th, 2011 Comments off

Here at DomainTools we’re well aware of the importance companies place on protecting their brands online, especially when it comes to using our tools to hunt down cybersquatting and typosquatting. But typosquatting is not just a problem for brand managers any more, as recent shocking research has shown.

A security company called Godai recently managed to steal 120,000 emails – a huge 20 GB of data, including passwords and trade secrets – simply by registering typo domain names of large global companies.

We’re all familiar with typosquatters registering names such as wwwgoogle.comwwwgoogle.com in order to try to steal traffic from people who mistype www.google.com, and what Godai did was similar. But instead of targeting web traffic, the researchers aimed at domains used for email traffic. They called these domains “Doppelgangers”, but in reality they’re no different to a regular typo.

Some large multinational companies use three-level domains in their employees’ email addresses to show where in the world they are located. A IBM employee might have an @ca.ibm.com address if they’re based in Canada or @mx.ibm.com if they’re based in Mexico, for example.

Godai registered typos of these domains, merging the second and third levels into something like caibm.comcaibm.com, then set up catch-all email accounts and sat back and waited for the typo emails to come flooding in. And flood in they did – the company managed to capture hundreds of passwords, private employee documents and corporate trade secrets.

The researchers found that 30% of the Fortune 100 companies were vulnerable to such attacks, and that many appeared to have already been typosquatted in this way, often by registrants based in China.

With the internet being used increasingly for corporate espionage, it’s important to monitor for typos not only of primary brands, but also of domains used in sensitive internal communications.

DomainTools can help. Our Typo Finder not only generates possible typos that you can then defensively register, it also tells you whether the domains have already been registered and to whom, enabling you to conduct a further investigation or pursue a cybersquatting complaint.

Typo Finder can find domains that look like your own but for a single missing or transposed letter, or proximity-based typing slip-ups such as using an N instead of an M. The kind of typo you want to see in your output is completely configurable through a simple interface.

Combined with other DomainTools services such as Reverse Whois, Name Server Reports and Reverse IP, our Typo Finder is one of the most powerful and cost-effective fraud mitigation tools available. If you’re at all concerned about being at risk from email theft, you should check it out!

FaceBook files TypoSquatter Lawsuit Based on Domains

July 28th, 2011 Comments off

Apparently Facebook has not only continued their practice of filing disputes for domains names it saw infringing on its trademarks but now also has changed gears and filed a suit on July 22nd against more than 100 parties claiming Cybersquatting, Trademark infringement, False Designation of Origin, Trademark Dilution, Breach of Contract and Tortious Interference . The filing with the United States District Court for the Northern District of California (PDF) lists 104 different domains with the majority of names containing the term “facebook” in some variation (i.e. facebooki.com) but also lists the domains (14) that the typo-domains are/were redirected to (i.e. 1939.com which according to a notice posted on the site was a redirect service at one point and SocialRewardCenter.com).

The listed defendants are:

  • Cyber2Media, Inc.
  • Daniel Negari
  • Cleanser Products
  • Counter Balance Enterprises Ltd.
  • FB Promotions/Freebie Promos
  • Mackrooner Ltd. Inc.
  • Newgate Services Ltd.
  • Pioneer Enterprises Ltd.
  • Rabbit Gogo Media LLC
  • SMTM Enterprises Ltd.
  • YourTick
  • Zilt
  • Jacob Daniels
  • Jerry Hui
  • Ryan Johnson
  • Eric Jordan
  • Karrie-Lee Karreman
  • June Kimchi
  • Tim Meyers
  • Ankit Pandey
  • S. Pace
  • Elise Petri
  • Mark Risi
  • John Souza
  • Michael Suggs
  • and John/Jane Does 1-119

This topic was also covered by Elliot Silver and Bill Hartzer. Hat tip to Domain Trader.


CSC and Alias Encore Launch New “Domain Recovery Service”

September 21st, 2010 Comments off

Corporation Service Company (CSC), which also is an ICANN accredited registrar serving many large corporations, announced this morning that they are now offering a “Domain Recovery Service” in conjunction with Alias Encore.

Alias Encore was founded in 2008 by Graham MacRobie, who also founded the similar Company Citizen Hawk. Both companies recover domain names on behalf of trademark owners who then in return allow them to monetize the domains through their own affiliate/CPA offers. Both also use automated processes to file high-volume complaints and to email domain owners of potentially infringing domain names.

See the full press release after the jump.

CORPORATION SERVICE COMPANY AND ALIAS ENCORE LAUNCH NEW DOMAIN RECOVERY SERVICE

Santa Barbara, CA: Corporation Service Company® (CSC®) and Alias Encore, Inc., announced today that the two companies have entered an exclusive partnership to offer best-in-class domain recovery services to brand holders worldwide. The announcement coincides with the beginning of the Commission Junction® CJU 2010 conference, where the topic of digital brand protection will be on many attendees’ minds.

Since the mid-1990s, brand owners have faced the daunting challenge of dealing with unscrupulous registrants who seek to profit from Internet domain names that include company trademarks or misspellings thereof. Called “cybersquatting” or “typosquatting,” this problem has grown to encompass millions of potentially infringing domain names – a scope most companies can’t possibly address on a case-by-case basis. Brand owners lose untold millions in revenue every year when Internet traffic is surreptitiously redirected to competitors or other third parties by way of advertisements displayed on Web sites reachable through cybersquatted domain names.

CSC has been at the forefront of the digital brand management industry since becoming an ICANN-accredited registrar in 2000, and today is one of the largest corporate registrars serving Global 2000® companies. A trusted advisor to intellectual property and legal professionals for more than 100 years, CSC offers an unparalleled suite of Internet-related services, including both domestic and international (ccTLD) domain name management, trademark and brand monitoring, phishing protection, and domain strategy. A recent survey by World Trademark Review ranked CSC #1 in customer approval for domain and online services.

Founded in 2008, Alias Encore has established itself as the technological leader in the rapidly maturing field of high-volume, automated domain recovery. Alias Encore’s systems allow for the efficient, simultaneous recovery of thousands of infringing domain names, freeing companies to focus on their business rather than playing cat-and-mouse games with cybersquatters. Both firms expect that Alias Encore’s platform and expertise will reinforce CSC’s industry-leading position from the standpoint of scope and sophistication.

“We evaluated the domain recovery industry thoroughly and came to the conclusion that Alias Encore stands head and shoulders above the competition,” said Mark Calandra, vice president at CSC. “In particular, we were impressed with the deep analytics, transparency, multivariate testing, and other advanced platform features that other providers don’t even begin to offer. Also, the speed at which Alias innovates and develops new technology is remarkable.”

Graham MacRobie, Alias Encore’s president and CEO said, “Increasingly, companies are demanding that their domain recovery provider execute with a degree of professionalism that can be challenging for a small firm to achieve. Working alongside CSC, I’m excited to decisively settle the ‘size matters’ debate with our competitors, allowing us to focus on building the technology and expertise that powers our world-class domain recovery solution. I consider it a privilege to work with CSC – a venerable institution with deep and pervasive connections throughout the Internet and legal communities.”

The new domain recovery service is available immediately. For more information, please contact sales@aliasencore.com.

About CSC

Corporation Service Company provides matter management, corporate compliance, and trustee services for companies and law firms worldwide; domain name and trademark services for top global brands; and due diligence and transactional services for the world’s largest financial institutions. It is one of the largest registered agent providers in the United States.

Founded in 1899, CSC is a privately held organization headquartered in Wilmington, Delaware, U.S.A. CSC works with more than 75 percent of the Fortune 500® and more than half of the world’s best brands as ranked by Interbrand®. To learn more about CSC, visit www.cscglobal.com, or follow CSC on Twitter at twitter.com/cscglobal.

About Alias Encore, Inc.

Alias Encore is squarely focused on helping companies increase highly qualified traffic to their Web sites through the strategic acquisition of misspelled domain names. It is no longer sufficient for a company to own only the domain name that exactly matches their trademark. This is because significant revenues are being surreptitiously diverted to competitors through literally millions of “typosquatting” sites that seek to improperly capitalize on the accidental keystrokes of unsuspecting Internet users. Alias Encore puts a stop to this domain name fraud, dramatically increasing revenues as a direct result.

Alias Encore was founded in 2008 and is privately held. The company’s headquarters are in Aliso Viejo, California. For more information, please visit www.aliasencore.com, or follow Alias Encore on Twitter at www.twitter.com/aliasencore.

(c) 2010 DomainNameNews.com


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