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Archive for April, 2011

ICANN’s recent release of the Applicant Guidebook for public comment seems to be an indication—or maybe just a hint– that the much debated “new domain extensions” may be approved at the next ICANN Meeting in Singapore this summer.  ICANN stated that they will collect public comments over the next 30 days and will have a completed Applicant Guidebook ready for Board review at the end of May.  The ICANN Board indicated after the San Francisco meeting in March that approval of the new TLD application process could come as early as the June 2011 meeting and as of now it appears they will hit that target. Perhaps another “hint” is that ICANN has removed the word “Draft” from correspondence related to the Application Guidebook.  What does this mean? If new TLDs are approved in June, ICANN has stated that a four month global communication period will be held and the application period for new generic Top Level Domain extensions could start as early as late October 2011.

If you would like to review and/or post a comment on the Applicant Guidebook, please visit the ICANN web site http://www.icann.org/en/topics/new-gtlds/comments-6-en.htm

Additionally, if you have any questions about applying for a new domain extension or how you can prepare your company for the potential launch of new TLDs, you can contact us at Safenames in the US, +1.703.574.5313 and nasales@safenames.net, or at Safenames in the UK at +44 1908 200022 and emeasales@safenames.net.

The practice of cyber squatting has been an issue for brands since the early days of domain registration when the “Internic” provisioned domains.  For the first seven or eight years during the web and domain registration boom, names were “held” (a.k.a., squatted) by infringers who were just waiting for an offer from the trademark holder to buy the domain name.  Today, the methods used to monetize trademarked domains are very sophisticated and continually refined to enable domain name pirates and their supporting “ecosystem” to generate the maximum revenue on misdirected web traffic. 

In the early 2000’s, displaying pay-per-click advertising (PPC) sites, also known as traffic monetization sites, was one of the first alternatives to “squatting” on a name.  Pay-per-click ad sites offered cybersquatters and typosquatters an easy and immediate way to offset domain registration costs.  Then, when the money started rolling in, the cyber criminals realized they could amass significant wealth with little or no effort.  And, there was really no risk to deter them from registering trademarked domains. There are now hundreds of traffic monetization companies that domain pirates can use and the sites that display on their syndicated ad networks have become very robust. These cyber pirates, and the complex systems they’ve built, do not appear to be going away anytime soon, as the demand to find better and smarter forms of turning views on the web into dollars is increasing year-over-year. 

While a web visitor may know that that they did not arrive on the intended web site of a particular brand, do they really re-type the domain name into the browser or do they just click on a link that looks like it will get them where they want to go?  The ads pages are often very enticing and most users will try the one-click route to get to their desired destination, which means they’re not re-typing the domain into the browser and  you’re potentially either losing a customer or paying more for one than you are aware.  If you’re the person searching and you see a 50% discount on the product or service that you want, but it’s from a different brand, do you at least take a look at the ‘alternate’ offer? Research suggests that most people do.  The sites deliver ads that can be very brand specific (ads of the brand holder, competitors and related industries) and they can serve geo targeted ads based on the visitor’s IP address to make the ad content extremely relevant and enticing.  One of the newer forms of web site monetization is to build “developed sites” in a variety of vertical markets that appear to be authentic sites and include relevant content that is surrounded or imbedded with ads.  The infringing domains are carefully pointed to the site of your vertical market with your SEM ads and the ads of your competitors. 

So how is this practice of domain name piracy harmful to your brand?  Let’s look at the DirectTV example. The domain name dirrectv.com, which is a pretty good typo of the real site www.directtv.com, currently resolves to a pay per click ad page. You have to wonder how much web traffic DirecTV is losing each time a user mistypes their domain after watching a DirecTV™ commercial?  In the best case scenario, DirecTV is paying $0.50, $1.00 or even more for a customer who already wanted to visit their site at no cost. In the worst case scenario, the consumer intending to go to the site ends up on the parked page, clicks the ad for Dish Network™ and orders a subscription there instead. An immediate lost sale, but what is the lifetime value of each lost opportunity? 

Ironically, the companies footing the bill to make these domain name pirates wealthy are the very companies that are being hurt by this practice—it may be happening to you.  Protecting your brands IS the same thing as protecting your revenue. 

To learn more about how your company can develop an online brand enforcement strategy and stop the loss of revenue at the hands of domain name pirates, you can contact us at Safenames US, +1.703.574.5313 and nasales@safenames.net, or the Safenames UK at +44 1908 200022 and emeasales@safenames.net.

While the recent reports by WIPO and FORUM highlighting the increased number of UDRP filings in 2010 are not surprising, it is interesting that such a small number of infringing domains are contested by trademark holders each year.  There are over 200 million registered domains across both generic Top Level Domains (gTLDs) and country code Top Level Domains (ccTLDs) with millions of infringements in the zone file across the globe.  There were, however, just 4,873 domain dispute cases filed in 2010 covering approximately 8,000 domains—that’s not even making a dent in the problem nor is it deterring the cyber criminals from continuing their practices.  It seems like much of the typo squatting and cyber squatting is being ignored.   That said, certain companies, like Verizon, Lego and Allstate, are extremely active in brand enforcement and collectively filed multiple UDRPs last year to recover hundreds of trademarked domains, while many other companies that are being hurt by cybersquatting and typosquatting take no action all.  This begs the question, why aren’t companies fighting back—to protect their marketing investments?  Is it a reluctance to play the game of “whack-a-mole”?  Is it a lack of budget? And do companies really know just how much a pay-per-click ad page hurts their revenue by diverting traffic?   Is fighting domain name piracy just not a priority? How can it not be when the result is lost revenue?

Regardless of why many companies’ strategy is to do nothing, the fact remains that taking no action is hurting both their bottom and top lines.  The legal departments and the marketing groups of a brand must work together to ensure that the equity that they have built and marketing dollars they have spent are not being hi-jacked—and are not making others wealthy.  Safenames believes that any company (large and/or small) conducting e-commerce transactions, generating new leads or just showcasing their brand(s) online simply cannot afford to ignore cybersquatters and/or online trademark infringers because these cyber criminals pose an array of threats.  At Safenames we are focused on educating our customers and the industry at large about the benefits of having a proactive domain name strategy in place for new brand launches.  And for existing brands, how an aggressive and well coordinated domain monitoring and enforcement strategy can garner a large ROI.  The risks and potential negative impact to a company’s revenue (and reputation) is just too great.  The loss may be realized through paying unnecessary online advertising fees, affiliate fraud, counterfeiting, phishing and even losing sales to competitors.  How much would an online marketing manager pay to get 5,000 or 10,000 new unique visitors a month?  How happy would an affiliate manager be to save $100,000 a year in affiliate payouts by eliminating brand poaching?  How much revenue can a company recoup by shutting down domains that are selling counterfeit goods?  A proper brand enforcement strategy that includes domain name monitoring and recovery can produce an immediate positive ROI.     

To learn more about best practices when developing an online brand enforcement strategy or to receive a free brand monitoring analysis of your brand, you can contact us at Safenames US, +1.703.574.5313 and nasales@safenames.net, or the Safenames UK at +44 1908 200022 and emeasales@safenames.net.

Consistent with last week’s announcement by WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization), the National Arbitration Forum (FORUM) based in Minneapolis, MN, announced that 2,177 cases were filed in its domain name dispute resolution program in 2010.  This number represents a 24 percent increase from 2009 (1,759 cases) and 23 percent over 2008 (1,770 cases).  Of the over 2,100 UDRP cases filed, 96.6% involved generic top-level domain (gTLD) names including .com, .net and .org.  Approximately 70 cases involved a .us top-level domain under the United States Dispute Resolution Policy (usDRP).  

But what exactly does this data actually mean? FORUM and WIPO are the two approved providers for domain name dispute resolution services under policies like the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP) implemented by ICANN in 1999.  And the question really is, “How effective are companies at protecting their brand through the UDRP?” 

The companies that do have an online brand enforcement strategy and use the UDRP to recover domains that are damaging their brand(s) the most are quite successful.  In about 75% of these cases, the Respondent does not even reply to a domain dispute and the Complaint wins UDRP cases over 90% percent of the time, regaining web traffic, ending customer confusion, and sending cyber pirates looking for easier targets.

To learn more about best practices when developing an online brand enforcement strategy or to receive a free brand monitoring analysis of your brand, you can contact us at Safenames US, +1.703.574.5313 and nasales@safenames.net, or the Safenames UK at +44 1908 200022 and emeasales@safenames.net.

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