Verizon seeks another registrar scalp

Kevin Murphy, March 21, 2010, 20:14:31 (UTC), Domain Registrars

After killing off small Indian registrar Lead Networks last week, Verizon wasted no time in gunning for a larger target, DirectNIC.

The carrier sued DirectNIC on Friday, claiming the company has been involved in the systematic typosquatting of hundreds of thousands of domains, including at least 288 belonging to Verizon.

There appears to be at least two things going on here.

First, Verizon is claiming that the common registrar practice of parking expired, pre-delete domains, somehow falls foul of US anti-cybersquatting laws if the parked domains are typosquats.

DomainNameWire addresses the possibly discomforting precedents this could set over here.

Second, the Verizon complaint resurrects the theory that DirectNIC’s owners, including CEO Sigmund Solares, are or were themselves typosquatters, using shell companies and “false identities” to squat brand typos for their own profit.

The best-known of these alleged identities is “Kenyatech”, the name of a hardcore typosquatter that has been found at fault in dozens of UDRP decisions.

So prolific was Kenyatech’s squatting that there was once a web site, kenyatechwatch.com, entirely devoted to griping about its activities.

Kenyatech’s known pseudonyms included Spiral Matrix, Kentech, Speedy Web, Unused Domains and Belize Domain Whois Service Lt, according to the Verizon complaint and other sources.

I’ve not been able to find any conclusive proof that DirectNIC and Kenyatech were one and the same, and the Verizon complaint doesn’t provide it either.

It does identify UDRP decisions where Kenyatech and NOLDC Inc, a Whois proxy service that definitely is affiliated with DirectNIC, are named as co-respondents, but that’s hardly conclusive.

There are also a few pages formerly found at intercosmos.net (Intercosmos Media was DirectNIC’s corporate name up until a year ago) that strongly suggest an affiliation. These pages were dug up last year at archive.org by an anonymous gripe blogger.

Verizon’s not the first to make the DirectNIC-Solares-Kenyatech connection in a lawsuit. Dell went after DirectNIC for typosquatting in 2007, claiming Solares was the brains behind Kenyatech.

Solares filed a sworn affidavit in response, bluntly denying that he or his companies had anything to do with Kenyatech.

Rather brilliantly, DirectNIC then counter-sued Dell, claiming that the Google toolbar Dell installed on new PCs, which captures DNS error traffic, constituted a violation of DirectNIC’s own trademarks.

The company could feasibly try the same tactic to force Verizon to the settlement table, if Verizon is one of those ISPs capturing DNS error traffic for profit.

The Dell suit appears to have been settled quietly some time last year.

Dell and Verizon are two of the most vocal members of CADNA, the Coalition Against Domain Name Abuse.

The complaint also lists DirectNIC directors Michael Gardner, Noah Lieske and various unidentified parties among its defendants.

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