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Some Skype domain names still owned by ex-employees

Kevin Murphy, August 10, 2010, Domain Policy

Oops! A number of Skype’s domain names are still registered in the names of people who no longer work for the company.

The embarrassing oversight was revealed in the company’s S-1 registration statement (huge HTML file), filed yesterday as the company prepares to launch its IPO.

Here’s the relevant section, with my emphasis.

Third parties have registered domain names that contain the Skype trademark without our consent, and a small proportion of the Skype domain names are registered in the names of our former employees rather than in our name. While we are seeking to have these domain names transferred to us, we may not be successful and to the extent that Skype domain names are not under our control in certain countries, it could hinder our marketing efforts, cause confusion to our users and may harm our reputation in those countries if those domain names are used in ways unrelated to our business or in ways with which we would not agree.

The company appears to be having a hard time protecting its brand in the offline world, too.

According to the S-1, News Corp arm BskyB, which runs Sky TV in the UK, has been objecting to Skype’s trademark applications, and it recently manage to block one such application in the EU.

It’s also having problems getting trademark protection in Asia, where others have registered very similar marks.

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DotFree wants to give away .free domains

Kevin Murphy, August 10, 2010, Domain Registries

A Czech company has become the latest to say it will apply for a new top-level domain, but it’s got a unique twist – domain registration will be free.

The dotFree Group, based near Prague, says it will apply for .free and offer the domains free of charge.

.FREE is going to be a generic Top Level Domain, which is going to be available for free, as the name itself says. Individuals, companies, organizations, groups, etc. are going to be able to register their .FREE website under a desirable name.

Can: open. Worms: everywhere.

  • How many registrars will actually want to carry this TLD?
  • How will dotFree fund its ICANN application fee and ongoing running costs?
  • Will there be a landrush? How will that work?
  • Will there be an after-market? With a no-risk investment, .free would be a domainer’s paradise.
  • How will the registry prevent rampant abuse by spammers?
  • Are these guys serious?

I’ve got a call in, so maybe we’ll find out more soon.

The dotFree Group already offers free domain names at the third level under cz.cc, and sells a pricey script so anyone can become a “registrar”.

The company sounds like it already has the infrastructure to support a small TLD.There are apparently 50,000 .cz.cc domains registered today, which already makes it bigger than some gTLDs.

(Hat tip: @dotRadio)

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Iron Mountain beds another registry

Kevin Murphy, August 10, 2010, Domain Registries

Iron Mountain puts itself about a bit, doesn’t it?

The company has signed a co-referral deal with wannabe new top-level domain registry operator UrbanBrain. The deal appears identical to one it inked with Central Registry Solutions in May.

Under these deals, Iron Mountain will refer potential TLD applicants to UrbanBrain (or CRS) and the registries will refer their clients to Iron Mountain for data escrow services.

The press releases don’t make it clear under what circumstances clients will be referred to UrbanBrain versus CRS, but given UrbanBrain is Japanese it could be along geographical lines.

Again, I ask: who benefits most?

My guess is still Iron Mountain, which has already got a pretty tight grip on the ICANN-mandated data escrow market. I can’t see it sending as much traffic to the registries as it receives.

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Domainers get love, but no refunds for .co cybersquatters

Kevin Murphy, August 10, 2010, Domain Registries

.CO Internet has ramped up its anti-cybersquatter messaging, promising no refunds for trademark-infringing .co registrants, no matter how much they paid for their domains.

An “Open Letter to .co Domain Registrants”, published by the company yesterday, also contains a shout-out to domainers, which I think may be a first from a domain registry.

The letter points out, as I have previously, that .co is subject to the UDRP on the same terms as other TLDs including .com.

The outcome of a UDRP proceeding is binding, and no refunds will be given under any circumstances — regardless of how much money you may have paid to secure the domain; whether the domain was acquired directly via a domain registrar or through a domain auction venue; and whether you were unaware that you had infringed on someone else’s rights.

There’s similar text on the front page of COauctions.com, where the registry is currently auctioning off contested landrush applications.

Is this just a matter of legal ass-covering? Or are there some gray-area domains in the landrush auction?

Despite all the promotional work the registry performed in the run-up to general availability, there are still plenty of people who seemed to believe .co represented new, lawless territory.

The letter ends with the statement that “.CO Internet is committed to protecting the rights of brand owners, domain investors, and end users.”

Domainers getting some love in the same breath as brand owners is not something you hear every day, particularly from registries.

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.CO landrush auctions kick off today

Kevin Murphy, August 10, 2010, Domain Registries

.CO Internet has today started auctioning off domain names that had multiple applicants during the .co landrush earlier this summer.

According to the company, over 2,500 names will be auctioned over the next four weeks. The top three most-contested names were Slots.co, Insure.co and Denver.co.

Other notable .CO domain names up for auction include Mexi.co, America.co, Betting.co, Vitamins.co, UsedCars.co, Happy.co, Ebook.co and Jackpot.co.

Registrants who applied for one of the contested domains need to sign up at www.COauctions.co.

There have been almost 410,000 .co registrations since the Colombian country-code domain was opened up to international registrants last month.

So far, the biggest seller has been o.co, sold to Overstock for $350,000.

Given that slots.com sold for $5.5 million, it seems likely that slots.co could fetch something in five figures or beyond.

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