Domain Prospecting, Cyber Squatting and Trademarks
Updated February 16, 2009 | GET A PDF OF THIS NEWS LETTER | THIS IS AN ARCHIVE FILE
Upon first hearing of the T.R.A.F.F.I.C. show through my business partner, Roy Crogan, my right eyebrow reached for the heavens as I thought about the potential for networking with hundreds of people who would need to have their websites developed. Listening further, my brow furrowed as I thought to myself, “These guys are a bunch of cyber squatters.”
Just because one has been developing domains for clients does not mean one understands other, related industries. I certainly was fairly clueless at the time. That was nearly three years ago.
When I worked with Roy at the 2006 show, the first time T.R.A.F.F.I.C. East had made the transition to a swanky venue, I was quite impressed with what I was learning. I even remember commenting that I felt I had found my element, though I was certainly out of my league at the time.
What has been learned during the intervening months and years is there is an element of people and businesses that do participate in cyber squatting, which is becoming a somewhat archaic term that broadly defines a segment of the domain industry that is still flirting with trademark infringement. Of course, we have made our share of mistakes along the way.
It is easy to become “Google-eyed” by the potential for a name such as, say, FidelityFunding.com. We bought it. That was stupid. We also bought into about a half-dozen other names that, upon reflection, were clear mistakes because of the trademark issue. We bought iPhoneArcade.com, too, and RoadAndTrackSports.com. What else could we be called but cyber squatters if we bought names identical to a well-branded product or service? The chances are none of the names would stand up to a CADNA challenge. There is also a likelihood the efforts of the domain industry, at large, could suffer in the face of such a clear trademark violations.
We were most definitely trending toward cyber squatter status. We stopped this practice in its tracks after consulting with a couple of colleagues in the industry we know to be very reputable. We have even taken the names offline.
Comes now the question of why there are many within the domain industry that prefer to act like veritable scofflaws and risk their own investments? What is worse, what about the ethical considerations of putting the industry at risk? Given the cultural lag that occurs with new industries, how will courts in the United States and abroad deal with these issues if we are unwilling to ferret out the proverbial “bad apples”?
It was a comfort when, near the end of 2008, Andrew Alleman exposed some questionable practices at Go Daddy and its subsidiary companies, and Go Daddy responded to those issues quickly. Refresh your memory by reading Ron Jackson's article on DNJournal.com. Of course, Go Daddy is, after all, simply trying to capitalize on the host of pending deletions, just like NameJet.com or Name.com or Dotster.com, among others.
What other practices exist or are yet to emerge that will continue to impinge upon trademarks, brands and the reputation of the domain industry? It is clear a stronger oversight is needed from those inside the industry. In the alternative, to coin a legal colloquialism, we will find the industry regulated by Congress or other entities that know nothing about domains. Such a reality would be a disaster.
As the economic conditions about us continue to deteriorate, this could be an ideal time for the industry to perform a healthy introspective analysis of how to further address this issue. Newbies making these mistakes is one thing, but experienced persons or businesses participating in the practice of trademark infringement is shameful. What is required is a measure of due diligence that will help reduce the influence of the unsavory business practices that will certainly constrain the opportunity for growth, once a bullish period returns to the domain world.
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