Buzzword: Cybersquatting

Cyberquatting is the unauthorized and/or illegal online use of someone’s trademark for profit or gain by another. Usually, some well known brand is used to register a domain.

Perpetrators go through the trouble of spending money on registration because:

  1. The traffic to that domain can be monetized using search ads from Google Adsense as in domain tasting (also called “kiting”)
  2. The domain can be sold - to its rightful owner? - for a considerable premium. The cybersquatter would put offensive material, including derogatory statements about the brand or person themselves, on the site to “nudge” the trademark holder into action. Buying the site is sometimes more cost effective than taking legal action.

Cyberquatting is illegal and the perpetrator can be help liable under the Anti-Cybersquatting Consumer Protection Act.

Typosquatting is a type of cyberquatting where the “variations” to a trademark or name are used instead. For example, a scammer can register “” instead of “” Unsuspecting spelling challenged surfers will land up at the former and then anything is possible – viruses, scams and an assortment of monetizing techniques can be applied.

Typosquatting is similar to the common “fat finger” scam in the telephone world, when someone registers a tolled number very similar to a highly used toll-free number. For example, a scammer can register a toll number 1-800-357-9377 or 1-800-356-9477 which is very close to 1-800-FLOWERS (1-800-356-9377) a toll free number. Callers unwittingly pay, sometimes big bucks, if they make a mistake while dialing the toll-free number.

How big is this problem? In a four week period starting Mar. 9 and ending Apr. 6, MarkMonitor found more than 286,000 instances of cybersquatting for the Interbrand Top 25 brands it studied—an average of 11,400 instances each.

So how do you protect your brand?

  1. Monitor the web for potential brand abuse using a service
  2. When a potential abuse is identified have your attorney send a “cease and desist” letter. Usually, this solves the problem
  3. If abuse continues, you will have to take legal action

But this problem can be reduced considerably if advertising networks such as Google Adsense do their due diligence when accepting potential “publishers” into their network. If a cyberquatter or domain taster does not have access to Google’s Adsense and the easy revenues, they will be less inclined to undertake this adventure.

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Posted on 06/04/2009 by

Buzzword: Cybersquatting author sourabhhajela



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