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TMCH sends out 17,500 Trademark Claims notices in a month

Kevin Murphy, March 3, 2014, Domain Services

Wow.

Just four weeks after the first new gTLDs went into general availability, the Trademark Clearinghouse has already sent out over 17,500 Trademark Claims notices to trademark owners.

A Claims notice is a warning that is generated whenever somebody registers a domain name that exactly matches a trademark listed in the TMCH’s database.

The 17,500 number refers to post-registration notices sent to trademark owners, not pre-registration warnings delivered to would-be registrants.

Considering that there are somewhere in the region of 180,000 domain names in new gTLDs today, 17,500 represents a surprisingly high percentage of the market (high single figures).

Of course, not all of these will be due to cybersquatting attempts.

There are plenty of marks in the TMCH that are acronyms or dictionary words, either because they match a genuine brand or because somebody obtained trademarks on generic terms in order to game sunrise periods.

I’d count those as false positives, personally, but it’s impossible to know without access to TMCH data how many of the 17,500 alerts delivered to date can be accounted for in that way.

There are 26,802 marks in the TMCH, according to the company.

Fifth URDP provider goes live

Kevin Murphy, February 25, 2014, Domain Services

The Arab Center for Dispute Resolution has gone live as the fifth approved provider of UDRP dispute resolution services.

The Jordan-based outfit, which says it has offices in “all Arab countries”, says it “is uniquely positioned to address domain name issues pertinent to the region, while maintaining an international, multicultural disposition to case settlement.”

ACDR was approved by ICANN to administer UDRP cases last May, over the objections of the Internet Commerce Association and others, which want UDRP providers bound to ICANN contracts.

The organization does not appear to be competing hard on price. A single-domain case will set trademark owners back a minimum of $1,500 ($1,000 to the panel, $500 to ACDR), which is the same as market leader WIPO.

It’s actually a little more expensive than WIPO — a five-domain case will cost $1,700 compared to WIPO’s $1,500.

Are these the 10 most-popular new gTLD domains?

Kevin Murphy, February 19, 2014, Domain Registries

I’m a firm believer that the success of new gTLDs will be measured not just in registration volumes but also in usage, and usage is a lot trickier to measure than domains under management.

One way of measuring usage that’s very familiar to many domainers is Alexa, the Amazon-owned web metrics service that uses toolbars and other data sources to rank web sites by popularity.

This kind of popularity data has been incorporated into TLD Health Check for some time, as one of many means to compare TLDs.

Alexa data isn’t perfect, but it is data, so I thought it might be interesting to see which of the 147 new gTLDs currently in the root are showing up in its daily list of the top one million domains.

There are 10 names, half of which are .guru domains, on yesterday’s list. There are not many functioning web sites yet, but for whatever reason these domains all, according to Alexa, have traffic.

These are the domains, with their popularity rank in parentheses:

www.link (356,406)

The highest-ranking new gTLD domain on our list is actually banned by ICANN due to the purported risk of name collisions.

It’s reserved by Uniregistry and will not resolve or be made available for registration for the foreseeable future.

I think what we’re looking at here is a case of somebody (or more likely lots of people) using www.link in web pages when they really should be using example.com.

beatport.singles (538,603)

Possible cybersquatting? Beatport (I’m old and unhip enough that I had to Google it) is an online electronic music store and the domain is registered via Go Daddy’s Domains By Proxy service.

The domain presumably refers to music “singles” rather than marital status, but it doesn’t seem to resolve from where I’m sitting. Quite why it’s getting traffic is beyond me. A typo in a URL somewhere? IP lawyers?

gtu.guru (589,205)

The first resolving name on our list leads to a work-in-progress Blogger blog. It’s registered to a chap in Gujarat, India, leading me to infer that GTU is Gujarat Technological University. Another squat?

seo.guru (671,647)

The first domainer on the list, I believe. The guy who registered seo.guru paid roughly $2,500 for it during Donuts’ first Early Access Program. It’s currently parked at Go Daddy.

I’d hazard a guess that it’s on the list because it’s a dream URL for an SEO professional (or charlatan, take your pick) and SEOs checking its availability are much more likely to have the Alexa toolbar installed.

deals.guru (790,778)

This one resolves to an under construction page.

I’d speculate that the pre-release $8,100 sale of deals.xyz caused a lot of domainers to check out whether the same second-level was available in other new gTLDs, spiking its traffic and causing an Alexa appearance.

nic.club (796,727)

The only registry-owned domain on our list — nic.club is the official registry web site of .CLUB Domains, which has its .club gTLD in sunrise until the end of March.

Is its appearance on the list indicative of strong pre-launch marketing or something else?

beekeeping.guru (857,778)

I’m not making this stuff up. This domain belongs to a British pest control company but resolves to a default Apache page. I can’t begin to guess why it’s getting traffic.

cp.wien (864,800)

An unregistered name in a sunrise gTLD. Possible name collision?

shop.camera (873,146)

Hot dang, we have a web site!

The domain shop.camera was only registered 10 days ago, but it already leads to what appears to be a fully-functioning Amazon affiliate site, complete with “Shop.Camera” branding.

freebitcoin.guru (994,404)

An email-gathering affiliate marketing site that I personally wouldn’t touch with yours. Still, it looks quite slick compared to the others on the list and it appears that the owner has made some effort to promote it.

First new gTLD cybersquatting case goes to IBM

Kevin Murphy, February 14, 2014, Domain Policy

IBM has won the first Uniform Rapid Suspension case to be filed against a new gTLD domain name.

National Arbitration Forum panelist Darryl Wilson handed down the perfunctory decision February 12, just seven days after IBM complained about ibm.ventures and ibm.guru.

Both domains have now been suspended, redirecting to a placeholder web site which states:

This Site is Suspended

The Domain Name you’ve entered is not available. It has been taken down as a result of dispute resolution proceedings pursuant to the Uniform Rapid Suspension System (URS) Procedure and Rules.

For more information relating to the URS, please visit: http://newgtlds.icann.org/en/applicants/urs

It was a slam dunk case, as you might imagine — the URS is designed to handle slam-dunk cases.

The registrant, who we estimate spent $2,500 on the two names, did not do himself any favors by redirecting both names to IBM’s .com site.

As we and Wilson both noted, this showed that he’d registered the names with IBM in mind.

IBM’s mark is included in the Trademark Clearinghouse, so the registrant will have been given a warning at the point of registration that he may be about to infringe someone’s IP rights.

Since the names were registered IBM, we’re told, has purchased a Domain Protected Marks List block from the registry, Donuts, which will prevent the names being re-registered when they expire.

IBM files URS complaints against guy who spent $2,500 on two domains

Kevin Murphy, February 6, 2014, Domain Registries

If you were a cybersquatter, would you spend $2,500 on just two domain names without doing even the most basic research into whether you’d get to keep the names?

One individual from New Jersey has done precisely that, apparently, and has now been hit with what may well be the first new gTLD Uniform Rapid Suspension complaint, according to Donuts.

Donuts VP Mason Cole said in a DI comment today that the company has “been notified of an additional URS action involving two IBM names.”

I believe he’s referring to ibm.guru and ibm.ventures, two new gTLD domains I highlighted earlier today as being registered under Go Daddy’s Whois privacy service.

Privacy protection has since been lifted from both domains, in accordance with Go Daddy policy, revealing the registrant (assuming it’s not a fake name) as one Denis Antipov of New Jersey.

Both domains were redirecting to ibm.com when I checked a few days ago — showing that the registrant clearly had IBM in mind when he bought the names — but now do not resolve for me.

What’s funny is that the registration date of the domains is January 31. Due to Donuts’ Early Access Program, the registrant will have paid Go Daddy a total of $2,479.98 for the pair.

Now, he stands to lose that investment in a URS case that will set IBM back about the same amount.

Donuts’ Cole said: “When infringement is alleged, we want to see the due process tools developed for new TLDs put to use. Registries are not trademark adjudicators — we implement the objective decisions of others.”

UPDATE: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported the price the registrant will have paid for these names.

TMCH sees cybersquatting in 1&1’s pre-reg requests

Kevin Murphy, February 6, 2014, Domain Registries

Would-be cybersquatters have pre-registered new gTLD domains matching many famous brands, according to the Trademark Clearinghouse.

According to a bit of TMCH PR fluff coming out tomorrow, there are pre-registrations in .web for 40 out of the 50 most-valuable British brands.

I gather that the data came from 1&1, the most aggressive registrar in its pursuit of new gTLD leads, which has reported over three million pre-regs.

In what appears to be outreach to drum up additional trademark registrations, the TMCH said:

According to the Trademark Clearinghouse’s data, unknown entities have already pre-reserved their interest in registering the domain names of 80 per cent of the UK’s 50 most valuable under the .WEB domain name. Similarly, third parties have attempted to pre-order 78 per cent of the UK’s top 50 most valuable brands under the .ONLINE domain name, 72 per cent under .APP, 70 per cent under .SHOP and 68 per cent under .BLOG.

It doesn’t seem to be a problem peculiar to new gTLDs, however. The TMCH also said that 54% of these brands have holes in their defensive registration portfolio across existing TLDs such as .biz, .net and .co.

There were roughly 23,000 marks in the TMCH database as of January 21.

UPDATE: 1&1 has asked me to clarify that the company took no part in this research. TMCH says it obtained the numbers through searches on the 1&1 web site.

Yes, there is cybersquatting in new gTLDs

Kevin Murphy, February 6, 2014, Domain Policy

With new TLDs, comes cybersquatting. It’s inevitable. And it’s also true of the new gTLDs that hit general availability this week.

The question of what is or is not cybersquatting is best left to a judge or UDRP panel, of course, but I’ve already come across plenty of newly registered domains that I do not believe would pass the UDRP test.

Sifting through select Whois records of domains that were registered in Donuts’ first seven gTLDs over the last few days, and without leaving the A’s, I’ve found the likes of: adidas.clothing, americanapparel.clothing, akamai.guru, americanexpress.guru. appleservice.guru and accenture.ventures.

Delving a little deeper into .clothing, I see the likes of kanyewest.clothing, ralphlauren.clothing, kardashiankollection.clothing, lauraashley.clothin, michaeljordan.clothing and more.

One Los Angeles clothing store appears to have registered several .clothing domains matching brands it does not own, possibly unaware that such behavior is frowned upon.

While there could be legitimate uses of the names I’ve highlighted here, possibly, they all appear to me to be registered to people unaffiliated with the referenced brands or celebrities.

I found more that are registered behind Whois privacy services, where it’s not possible to tell whether the domain belongs to the brand or not. Domains such as ibm.guru and ibm.ventures use Whois privacy, yet resolve to the IBM web site.

Cases of obvious UDRP losses seem to be few and far between, however. The vast majority of domains registered in these new gTLDs this week seem to be straightforward generic terms.

While I’m using the UDRP sniff test to highlight domains I feel may be cybersquatting, there’s a new process in town when it comes to disputes: the faster, cheaper Uniform Rapid Suspension policy.

URS has a higher burden of proof — “clear and convincing evidence” of bad faith registration and use — and it’s not yet clear how panelists will handle these cases.

There’s only been one URS case to date, that of facebok.pw, in which the domain was suspended following a complaint by Facebook.

In that case, Facebook was able to show bad faith by presenting the panelist with a list of other typo domains the respondent had registered.

Extortion.sucks — Vox Pop CEO defends “under-priced” $25,000 sunrise fee

Kevin Murphy, December 19, 2013, Domain Registries

Vox Populi Registry, the .sucks new gTLD applicant backed by Momentous Corp, is to charge trademark owners $25,000 to participate in its Sunrise period, should it win the TLD.

Not only that, but it’s become the first new gTLD applicant that I’m aware of to start taking pre-registration fees from trademark owners while it’s still in a contention set with other applicants.

At first glance, it looks like plain old trademark-owner extortion, taken to an extreme we’ve never seen before.

But after 45 minutes talking to Vox Pop CEO John Berard this evening, I’m convinced that it’s worse than that.

The company is setting itself up as the IP lobby’s poster child for everything that is wrong with the new gTLD program.

If Vox Pop wins the .sucks contention set — it’s competing against Donuts and Top Level Spectrum — it plans to charge trademark owners $25,000 to participate in Sunrise and $25,000 a year thereafter.

Registrations during general availability, whether they match a trademark or not, will cost $300 a year.

During the pre-registration period, the Sunrise fee is $2,500 and the “Priority Reservation” fee is $250.

The Sunrise fee is, I believe, higher than any sunrise fee in any TLD ever to launch.

But Berard said that he believes Vox Pop’s .sucks proposition is, if anything, “under-priced”.

“Most companies spend far more than $25,000 a month on a public relations agency, most companies spend more than $25,000 a month on a Google ad campaign,” he said.

“Companies spend millions of dollars a year on customer service. We view .sucks as an element of customer service on the part of companies,” he said.

Berard, a 40-year veteran of the public relations business, said that he believes .sucks represents an opportunity for brands to engage with their customers, gaining valuable insight that could help them improve product development or customer service.

“The last thing I view .sucks as is a domain name. That’s the last value proposition for .sucks,” he said. “The primary value proposition is as a key and innovative part of customer service, retention and loyalty.”

It’s about giving companies “the ability to bring internet criticism and commentary out of the shadows and into the light” and “an opportunity to actually have a legitimate ability to correct misconceptions and engage, in much the way they’re doing now with Facebook”, he said.

It’s all about helping companies create a dialogue, in other words.

But Berard said that Vox Pop does not intend to launch any value-added services on .sucks domains.

While a domain name may be the “last value proposition” of .sucks, it is also the only thing that Vox Pop is actually planning to sell.

Asked to justify the $25,000 Sunrise fee, at first Berard pointed to policies that he said will ensure a transparent space for conversation.

“A company might not have to register its brand in .sucks, because if someone else does the policies and practices that we hope to deploy give that company a transparent opportunity to participate,” Berard said. “There’s no chasing unknown people down dark alleys for unfounded criticism. It will all be done in the light of day.”

“We have built-in policies that prevent sites from being parked pages,” he said. “The site must be put to that use — of customer service — whether you are the company that owns [the brand] or a customer that wants to complain about it.”

There was some confusion during our conversation about what the policies are going to be.

At first it sounded like companies would be obliged to run criticism/conversation sites targeting their own brands or risk losing their domains, but Berard later called to clarify that while pages cannot be parked under the policy, they can be left inactive.

It will be possible, in other words, for a company to register its brand.sucks and leave the associated site dark.

The registry would also have an “authenticated Whois database”, he said, though it would allow registrants to use privacy services.

There would also be prohibitions on cyber-bullying and porn in .sucks, if Vox Pop wins it. It has committed to these policies in its Public Interest Commitments (pdf)

But the company does not appear to be doing anything that ICM Registry did not already do when it launched .xxx a couple of years ago, when it comes to making brand owners’ lives easier.

In fact, it’s planning to do a lot less, while being literally a hundred times more expensive.

By contrast, if Donuts wins .sucks, brand owners will be able to defensively block their marks using the Domain Protected Marks List for $3,000 over five years, which would cover all of Donuts 200-300 new gTLDs.

There doesn’t appear to be any good reason Vox Pop is charging prices well above the market rate, in my view, other than the fact that the company reckons it can get away with it.

In what may well be a deliberate move to put pressure on trademark owners, Vox Pop is also the first registry I’ve encountered to say it will do a 30-day, as opposed to a 60-day, Sunrise period.

Under ICANN rules, registries have to give at least 30 days warning before a 30-day Sunrise starts, but once it’s underway they are allowed to allocate domains on a first-come-first-served basis.

All of the 30-odd registries currently in Sunrise have opted for the traditional 60-day option instead, where no domains are allocated until the end of the period.

There’s also the question of accepting Sunrise pre-registrations before Vox Pop even knows whether it will get to run .sucks.

There are two other applicants and Berard said that he reckons the contention set is likely to go to an ICANN last-resort auction.

Judging by ICANN’s preliminary timetable, the .sucks auction wouldn’t happen until roughly September next year, by my reckoning.

Anyone who pre-registers today will have to wait a year before they can use (or not) their domain, if they even get to register it at all.

Any money that is taken during the pre-reg period will be refunded if Vox Pop fails to launch.

In the meantime, it will be sitting in Momentous’ bank account where the company, presumably, will be able to use it to try to win the .sucks auction.

Trademark owners, in my view, should vote with their wallets and stay the hell away from Vox Pop’s pre-registration service.

I’m not usually in the business of endorsing one new gTLD applicant over another, but I think Vox Pop’s Sunrise pricing is going to make the whole new gTLD program — and probably also ICANN and the domain name industry itself — look bad.

It’s a horrible reminder of a time when domain name companies were often little better than spammers, operating at the margins and beyond of acceptable conduct, and it makes me sad.

The new gTLD program is about increasing choice and competition in the TLD space, it’s not supposed to be about applicants bilking trademark owners for whatever they think they can get away with.

TMCH extends Trademark Claims indefinitely, kinda

Kevin Murphy, December 11, 2013, Domain Services

The Trademark Clearinghouse is to give the intellectual property lobby something that it’s been crying out for for years — an indefinite extension of parts of the Trademark Claims service.

And it’s going to be free.

Trademark Claims is a mandatory service for all new gTLD operators, sending pre-registration warnings to registrants and post-registration alerts to mark owners whenever a domain matching a trademark is registered.

But it only runs for 90 days, per the ICANN new gTLD contracts, which TMCH project director Jan Corstens said is IP owners’ “number one complaint” about the system.

So the TMCH is going to extend the post-registration alerts half of the service indefinitely.

When the first new gTLDs officially end their Claims periods next year, the TMCH will continue to send out alerts to mark owners (or, in 90% of cases, their registrar “agents”) when matching domains are registered.

Would-be registrants will only receive their pre-registration warnings for the original 90-day period.

Corstens said that the pre-registration side of Claims would only be possible with the cooperation of registries and registrars, and that there’s a lot of reluctance to help out.

“A lot of them are not really interested in doing that,” he said. “I understand it takes work, and I understand they think it could demotivate potential registrants.”

Trademark owners that have directly registered with the Clearinghouse, rather than going through an agent, will get the extended service for no added charge.

However, Corstens made it clear that the TMCH is not trying to compete with registrars — such as MarkMonitor and Melbourne IT — that already offer zone file monitoring services to trademark owners.

“We know the market exists,” he said. “It’s not our intention to become a monopoly. We will deliver it to them, of course, and assume they can integrate with it.”

Agents will be able to plug the service into their existing products if they wish, he said.

There are a few initial limitations with the new TMCH service such that its registrar agents may not find it particularly labor-saving.

First, only domains that exactly match labels in the Clearinghouse will generate alerts.

By contrast, brand-monitoring registrars typically generate alerts when the trademark is a substring of the domain. To carry on doing this they’ll need to carry on monitoring zone files anyway.

Second, the TMCH service only currently covers new gTLDs applied for in the 2012 round. It doesn’t cover .com, for example, or any other legacy gTLD.

Corstens said both of these limitations may be addressed in future releases. The first Trademark Claims period isn’t due to end until March, so there’s time to make changes, he said.

He added that he hopes the extension of Claims will lead to an uptick in the the number of trademarks being registered in the TMCH. Currently there are about 20,000.

First URS case decided with Facebook the victor

Kevin Murphy, October 25, 2013, Domain Policy

Facebook has become the first company to win a Uniform Rapid Suspension complaint.

The case, which dealt with the domain facebok.pw, took 37 days from start to finish.

This is what the suspended site now looks like:

The URS was designed for new gTLDs, but .PW Registry decided to adopt it too, to help it deal with some of the abuse it started to experience when it launched earlier this year.

Facebook was the first to file a complaint, on August 21. According to the decision, the case commenced about three weeks later, September 11, and was decided September 26.

I don’t know when the decision was published, but World Trademark Review appears to have been the first to spot it.

It was pretty much a slam-dunk, uncontroversial decision, as you might imagine given the domain. The standard is “clear and convincing evidence”, a heavier burden than UDRP.

The registrant did not respond to the complaint, but Facebook provided evidence showing he was a serial cybersquatter.

The decision was made by the National Arbitration Forum’s Darryl Wilson, who has over 100 UDRP cases under his belt. Here’s the meat of it:

IDENTICAL OR CONFUSINGLY SIMILAR

The only difference between the Domain Name, facebok.pw, and the Complainant’s FACEBOOK mark is the absence of one letter (“o”) in the Domain Name. In addition, it is well accepted that the top level domain is irrelevant in assessing identity or confusing similarity, thus the “.pw” is of no consequence here. The Examiner finds that the Domain Name is confusingly similar to Complainant’s FACEBOOK mark.

NO RIGHTS OR LEGITIMATE INTERESTS

To the best of the Complainant’s knowledge, the Respondent does not have any rights in the name FACEBOOK or “facebok” nor is the Respondent commonly known by either name. Complainant has not authorized Respondent’s use of its mark and has no affiliation with Respondent. The Domain Name points to a web page listing links for popular search topics which Respondent appears to use to generate click through fees for Respondent’s personal financial gain. Such use does not constitute a bona fide offering of goods or services and wrongfully misappropriates Complainant’s mark’s goodwill. The Examiner finds that the Respondent has established no rights or legitimate interests in the Domain Name.

BAD FAITH REGISTRATION AND USE
The Domain Name was registered and is being used in bad faith.

The Domain Name was registered on or about March 26, 2013, nine years after the Complainant’s FACEBOOK marks were first used and began gaining global notoriety.

The Examiner finds that the Respondent has engaged in a pattern of illegitimate domain name registrations (See Complainant’s exhibit URS Site Screenshot) whereby Respondent has either altered letters in, or added new letters to, well-known trademarks. Such behavior supports a conclusion of Respondent’s bad faith registration and use. Furthermore, the Complainant submits that the Respondent is using the Domain Name in order to attract for commercial gain Internet users to its parking website by creating a likelihood of confusion as to the source, sponsorship or affiliation of the website. The Examiner finds such behavior to further evidence Respondent’s bad faith registration and use.

The only remedy for URS is suspension of the domain. According to Whois, it still belongs to the respondent.

Read the decision in full here.