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The Lowdown



Dec. 24, 2008 Post

Here's the The Lowdown from DNJournal.com! Updated daily to fill you in on the latest buzz going around the domain name industry!

Compiled by Ron Jackson
(DN Journal Editor/Publisher)
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In a story that has transcended the domain business and made headlines at every mainstream business news outlet, Verizon Communications Inc. said it has been awarded $33.2 million in what it called the largest cybersquatting case ever. A federal court in 

California ruled that  OnlineNic.com, a large, long-established domain registrar based in San Francisco "unlawfully registered at least 663 domain names that were either identical to or confusingly similar to Verizon trademarks." The company was awarded $50, 000 per name for OnlineNIC's "bad-faith registrations" that were intended to steer traffic away from Verizon's sites (federal law provides for a penalty of up to $100,000 per name). 

 

OnlineNic lost by default because they did not even bother to show up in court to defend the case, a very surprising situation given that a judgment of this size could bankrupt the registrar. A couple of thoughts immediately crossed my mind when this news broke. #1 - what could OnlineNic have possibly been thinking! Verizon has been vigorously going after those infringing their trademarks for a long time now and their 2007 lawsuit against iREIT was major news in the domain industry that OnlineNic had to know about. Why would they hold a massive lot of clearly infringing names when doing so put a huge target on their back and their entire business at risk? 

The second thing that came to mind is how does Verizon continue to win judgments against cybersquatters when Verizon is one of the most active cybersquatters on the Internet themselves!? As anyone who uses Verizon as an internet service provider knows (they happen to be my ISP too) any time you mis-type a name in your browser, the typo (if there is not an existing website with the 

misspelled name) leads to Verizon's own in-house landing page with PPC links monetizing those typos - including countless trademarked terms. For example, I just typed HulettPackerd.com into my browser and was sent to a Verizon page loaded with PPC links to Hewlett Packard products (see screenshot below).

How is this different from what OnlineNic just lost $33 million for doing? Infringement is infringement. Make no mistake, I think OnlineNic was dead wrong (not to mention plain stupid) for what they did - but I think Verizon is dead wrong in what they are doing in monetizing other company's typos too. Do you think they are turning the money earned from pages like this over to Hewlett Packard? Neither do I. The rules should apply equally to everyone. When Verizon does it they call it a "service". When someone else does it they call it "cybersquatting". I think it is the latter, but in any case what is good for the goose is good for the gander.
(Posted Dec. 24, 2008)


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