June 2, 2006 1:35 PM PDT

Dotster named in massive cybersquatting suit

A new federal lawsuit charges that Dotster, one of the largest domain name registrars, has unlawfully participated in a massive cybersquatting campaign targeting companies such as Cingular Wireless, Disney, Ikea, Google, Neiman Marcus, Playboy and Verizon.

The lawsuit, filed Thursday by high-end retailers Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman, alleges that Dotster abused its status as a registrar by "checking out" hundreds of domain names that closely resemble the correct ones--and then keeping only the ones that were visited by Web users who couldn't spell very well.

The misspelled domain name NeimuMarcus.com, when visited by CNET News.com on Thursday evening, included code in its Web page that references Dotster and its subsidiary RevenueDirect.com--and featured advertisements for Neiman Marcus rivals such as Bloomingdales and JCrew. By early Friday, however, that Web site and dozens more had been taken offline.

Court exhibit
This excerpt from a court exhibit
lists domains that are allegedly
operated by Dotster and are similar
to trademarks.

Cybersquatting, the practice of registering domain names that may violate a company's trademark, is hardly new--it's been around for more than a decade. Also called typosquatting, it's led to high-profile spats such as Apple Computer's successful attempt to claim iTunes.co.uk and Canadian teenager Mike Rowe's registration of MikeRoweSoft.com.

But this Dotster lawsuit involves allegations of a new twist on the concept: a registrar using its special status with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers to secure misspelled domains temporarily for a few days, measure the traffic, and then pay for only the ones that would be lucrative in terms of advertising.

Dotster did not respond to repeated messages left on Friday with its legal department and two other employees.

Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman's complaint and exhibits, which total 155 pages, include excerpts from a conversation with Dotster employee Scott Fish, who allegedly asked for $1,000 for the name BergmanGoodman.com.

"It gets a good amount of traffic right now, and would be a great domain to brand," said a purported e-mail message from Fish to a prospective purchaser.

The unnamed purchaser replied: "$1,000? Really? Would you take $500 for it, paid through Paypal?" according to the e-mail exchange included with the complaint.

Fish eventually agreed to sell it for $800, according to the alleged exchange.

While other registrars have been accused of this practice, and typosquatting has even been the target of a Microsoft Research project called "Typo-Patrol," this appears to be the first dispute with a registrar that's led to a lawsuit.

"What's unusual about (the allegation) is that it's not just any cybersquatter, it's a registrar, which is a problem," said Ann Ford, the managing partner of DLA Piper Rudnick Gray Cary's Washington, D.C., office, who specializes in trademark and copyright law.

Ford added that a lawsuit, rather than ICANN arbitration (a common way of resolving domain name disputes), was appropriate in cases involving registrar malfeasance. "Money damages as well as injunctive relief will better serve to shut down this typosquatter--if it is indeed the identified registrar--as opposed to simply having the existing bad faith domains transferred," she said.

The lawsuit--filed by the law firms of Christie Parker and Hale and Perkins Coie--charges that Dotster violated federal laws against trademark infringement and dilution, federal cybersquatting laws, and Washington state consumer protection laws against deceptive acts and practices.

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30 comments

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GoDaddy does it too...
GoDaddy is one of the biggest typosquatters on the web:
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://domainnamewire.com/2005/12/30/is-godaddy-typosquatting/" target="_newWindow">http://domainnamewire.com/2005/12/30/is-godaddy-typosquatting/</a>

Also, you don't have to be a registrar to get the 5 day grace period to "test" domains for traffic. Many registrars extend this benefit to customers.
Posted by andrew999999999 (42 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Completely misleading and false
Go Daddy does NOT own the domains registered using DomainsbyProxy. GoDaddy running DomainsbyProxy acts as a middle man in order to hide the actual domain registers name, address and email from the who is database, which is regularly data mined by spammers. Behind each and every one of these domains is a go daddy customer who registered and paid for the domain.

And yes, there is rumor of some registrars offering the 5 day grace period to their customers. Go Daddy is *NOT* one of the companies. They have been a HUGE voice in exposing this flim flam scam. Even stating the of 35 million domains registered in one month 32 million where cancelled within the 5 day grace period. note: *FACT* Go Daddy does *NOT* allow any grace period. For more information read <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.bobparsons.com" target="_newWindow">http://www.bobparsons.com</a>
Posted by michael_0001 (10 comments )
Link Flag
Everyone does it!
All registrars do this to some extent, and it's not as though these companies are doing something that has gone unnoticed by ICAN. Domain tasting is a fact of life these days. Dotster can't be any better at domain tasting than companies like GoDaddy, and Id bet that a company like GoDaddy actually owns more of these domains than Dotster. Dotster just managed to **** off a few companies that are apparently willing to devote the time and money to do raising a stink about it.
Posted by BenSG (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Doesn't make it legal...
reasoning that everyone does it does NOT make it legal. Cybersquatters are a parasitic blight on real businesses. They are no different than any other kind of extortion. A domain not in use with a legit website with related content should simply be released for purchase by companies willing to maintain them. As long as there is legitimate related content, it could be considered 'fair use'. If slimy companies in a position of unfair advantage want to own a domain, then they can build a suitable website. Companies such as GoDaddy and others that actively market their hosting or other services to the domains already in their portfolio are already taking advantage of a system where others worked hard to use them as registrars. Now, Dotster and GoDaddy are taking it one step further. A significant legal finding against them would be a major boon to proliferating domain names rather than concentrating such. ICANN is toothless and a waste of oversight opportunity with regard to most registrars -- it is up to the lawyers to make life more fair for the rest of us.
Posted by afterhours (215 comments )
Link Flag
Domain Tasting
To my knowledge, GoDaddy doesn't do "domain tasting", it just holds onto trademark typos that have expired. In fact, GoDaddy's Bob Parson has blogged extensively about how he's opposed to domain tasting, or "domain kiting" as he calls it.
Posted by andrew999999999 (42 comments )
Link Flag
Everyone does it!
All registrars do this to some extent, and it's not as though these companies are doing something that has gone unnoticed by ICAN. Domain tasting is a fact of life these days. Dotster can't be any better at domain tasting than companies like GoDaddy, and Id bet that a company like GoDaddy actually owns more of these domains than Dotster. Dotster just managed to **** off a few companies that are apparently willing to devote the time and money to do raising a stink about it.
Posted by BenSG (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Doesn't make it legal...
reasoning that everyone does it does NOT make it legal. Cybersquatters are a parasitic blight on real businesses. They are no different than any other kind of extortion. A domain not in use with a legit website with related content should simply be released for purchase by companies willing to maintain them. As long as there is legitimate related content, it could be considered 'fair use'. If slimy companies in a position of unfair advantage want to own a domain, then they can build a suitable website. Companies such as GoDaddy and others that actively market their hosting or other services to the domains already in their portfolio are already taking advantage of a system where others worked hard to use them as registrars. Now, Dotster and GoDaddy are taking it one step further. A significant legal finding against them would be a major boon to proliferating domain names rather than concentrating such. ICANN is toothless and a waste of oversight opportunity with regard to most registrars -- it is up to the lawyers to make life more fair for the rest of us.
Posted by afterhours (215 comments )
Link Flag
Domain Tasting
To my knowledge, GoDaddy doesn't do "domain tasting", it just holds onto trademark typos that have expired. In fact, GoDaddy's Bob Parson has blogged extensively about how he's opposed to domain tasting, or "domain kiting" as he calls it.
Posted by andrew999999999 (42 comments )
Link Flag
Yikes
It scares me to no end if you happen to pick a simmliar sounding domain name that has not been claimed by anyone else for years and you end up in court.

Hats off to the coprate rights over everything simmliar to them.
Posted by reustle (37 comments )
Reply Link Flag
not a real concern
There is three parts to being found in violation and losing a domain name.

* a domain name is identical or confusingly similar to a trademark or service mark in which the complainant has rights
* the domain name owner has no rights or legitimate interests in the domain name, and
* the domain name has been registered and is being used in bad faith.

ALL three must be proven in order for the domain name to be ruled illegal.

So if I register the domain GeoBush.com old georgie might have something to say about it. But if I run the website as a geo caching site that deals with only geo caching in wilderness settings I am just fine.

Bad faith and confusion have the most to do with the loss of a domain name.
Posted by R Me (196 comments )
Link Flag
Yikes
It scares me to no end if you happen to pick a simmliar sounding domain name that has not been claimed by anyone else for years and you end up in court.

Hats off to the coprate rights over everything simmliar to them.
Posted by reustle (37 comments )
Reply Link Flag
not a real concern
There is three parts to being found in violation and losing a domain name.

* a domain name is identical or confusingly similar to a trademark or service mark in which the complainant has rights
* the domain name owner has no rights or legitimate interests in the domain name, and
* the domain name has been registered and is being used in bad faith.

ALL three must be proven in order for the domain name to be ruled illegal.

So if I register the domain GeoBush.com old georgie might have something to say about it. But if I run the website as a geo caching site that deals with only geo caching in wilderness settings I am just fine.

Bad faith and confusion have the most to do with the loss of a domain name.
Posted by R Me (196 comments )
Link Flag
Learn to type.
Or. Why is this so big? If you mistype something, and get what you didn't want.. Type it again. Or learn to type. If i want cnet, and type cet.com, and got something else, I'd go right back up to the address bar and fix it. Problem over. Does domain squatting really cost companies enough revenue to fight it like this?
Posted by SmarterMuffin (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Learn to type.
Or. Why is this so big? If you mistype something, and get what you didn't want.. Type it again. Or learn to type. If i want cnet, and type cet.com, and got something else, I'd go right back up to the address bar and fix it. Problem over. Does domain squatting really cost companies enough revenue to fight it like this?
Posted by SmarterMuffin (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Never....
Dotster...cybersquatting....never...

Come on this company is one of the most untrustworthy in the industry. Their customer support is wretched and their control panel is even worse.

- www.thehostguru.com
Posted by rosshosman-2006316116401890488 (5 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Never....
Dotster...cybersquatting....never...

Come on this company is one of the most untrustworthy in the industry. Their customer support is wretched and their control panel is even worse.

- www.thehostguru.com
Posted by rosshosman-2006316116401890488 (5 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Go Daddy Steals Domain Names When You Use Their Search
GODADDY ARE STEALS YOUR DOMAIN SEARCHES!!!

Twice I have searched for a domain name using the search window at GoDaddy and both times someone bought the domain within 8 hours. I placed an order with my IPS before going to bed. When I awoke in the morning someone else owned my domain.

For GoDaddy to be in the business of registering domains while selling them out from under potential customers should be a violation of law. It certainly means GoDaddy has no integrity

GODADDY SHOULD BE SHUT DOWN, AND SUED!!!! IF ICANN IS TURNING A BLIND EYE TO THIS KIND OF BUSINESS PRACTICE THE WORLD NEEDS TO BRING THE AX DOWN ON ICANN TOO!!!!

This is like a realitor writing a contract for a homebuyer attaching the escrow check and then going to another potential buyer and using it to get a higher offer for the seller, back dating his contract. If caught they would end up losing their license and be in jail!!!

Part of the domain registering business involves a fiduciary duty to protect trade secrets. I entrust my ideas when I type a domain into their search engine to see if it is available. If they are preditors and can cut me off because they are closer to the main trunk line of the Internet or are turning around selling my searches to speculators then GODADDY VIOLATED TRUST OF THE HIGHEST ORDER!!!!

Spred the Word GODADDY SUCKS!!!!

It is straight out crooked. I wanted to tell everyone DON'T USE GODADDY FOR ANYTHING!!! For sure don't use their search window if your looking for a domain because they will sell it out from under you before you can get it bought!!!
Posted by born2dance (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Go Daddy Steals Domain Names When You Use Their Search
GODADDY ARE STEALS YOUR DOMAIN SEARCHES!!!

Twice I have searched for a domain name using the search window at GoDaddy and both times someone bought the domain within 8 hours. I placed an order with my IPS before going to bed. When I awoke in the morning someone else owned my domain.

For GoDaddy to be in the business of registering domains while selling them out from under potential customers should be a violation of law. It certainly means GoDaddy has no integrity

GODADDY SHOULD BE SHUT DOWN, AND SUED!!!! IF ICANN IS TURNING A BLIND EYE TO THIS KIND OF BUSINESS PRACTICE THE WORLD NEEDS TO BRING THE AX DOWN ON ICANN TOO!!!!

This is like a realitor writing a contract for a homebuyer attaching the escrow check and then going to another potential buyer and using it to get a higher offer for the seller, back dating his contract. If caught they would end up losing their license and be in jail!!!

Part of the domain registering business involves a fiduciary duty to protect trade secrets. I entrust my ideas when I type a domain into their search engine to see if it is available. If they are preditors and can cut me off because they are closer to the main trunk line of the Internet or are turning around selling my searches to speculators then GODADDY VIOLATED TRUST OF THE HIGHEST ORDER!!!!

Spred the Word GODADDY SUCKS!!!!

It is straight out crooked. I wanted to tell everyone DON'T USE GODADDY FOR ANYTHING!!! For sure don't use their search window if your looking for a domain because they will sell it out from under you before you can get it bought!!!
Posted by born2dance (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
GoDaddy.com steals good domain name ideas.
I have been doing business with GoDaddy for years. As of yesterday, April 15, 2008 our business relationship is over. I had just finished a website and was now in the process of finding a good domain for it on GoDaddy. I came up with a very simple, short domain that said it all. www.ibuynsell.com "Nice don't you think?" I was very excited to see that is was available. I tested a few others ideas that I liked and some where taken, some were not. I came up with three domain names that that were available. and proceeded to register them. When I attempted to register www.ibuynsell.com it was taken. I couldn't believe it! I typed in the domain in the address bar and sure enough it was parked on GoDaddy's website. Now it was only about 1hr and 45 minutes from when it was availibale to when it was taken. I work from home and got a call that I had to deal with, other wise I would have registered them immediately. This has never happen to me before. So I did a little research. I am not the only person this has happened to. Many other using GoDaddy to search for domain names have had the same expirence. You could say it was a fluke, I say GoDaddy is using unfair consumer techniques. Don't believe me? Come up with a good domain name. Search it on GoDaddy. Wait an hour or so then check it again. Boy will you be surprised as I was, how fast a good domain idea gets taken by GoDaddy. Search the web for "GoDaddy steals domain" You'll see. This is no coincidence, This is an unfair practice by GoDaddy.com
Posted by okmi2008 (3 comments )
Reply Link Flag
GoDaddy.com steals good domain name ideas.
I have been doing business with GoDaddy for years. As of yesterday, April 15, 2008 our business relationship is over. I had just finished a website and was now in the process of finding a good domain for it on GoDaddy. I came up with a very simple, short domain that said it all. www.ibuynsell.com "Nice don't you think?" I was very excited to see that is was available. I tested a few others ideas that I liked and some where taken, some were not. I came up with three domain names that that were available. and proceeded to register them. When I attempted to register www.ibuynsell.com it was taken. I couldn't believe it! I typed in the domain in the address bar and sure enough it was parked on GoDaddy's website. Now it was only about 1hr and 45 minutes from when it was availibale to when it was taken. I work from home and got a call that I had to deal with, other wise I would have registered them immediately. This has never happen to me before. So I did a little research. I am not the only person this has happened to. Many other using GoDaddy to search for domain names have had the same expirence. You could say it was a fluke, I say GoDaddy is using unfair consumer techniques. Don't believe me? Come up with a good domain name. Search it on GoDaddy. Wait an hour or so then check it again. Boy will you be surprised as I was, how fast a good domain idea gets taken by GoDaddy. Search the web for "GoDaddy steals domain" You'll see. This is no coincidence, This is an unfair practice by GoDaddy.com
Posted by okmi2008 (3 comments )
Reply Link Flag
GoDaddy does it too...
GoDaddy is one of the biggest typosquatters on the web:
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://domainnamewire.com/2005/12/30/is-godaddy-typosquatting/" target="_newWindow">http://domainnamewire.com/2005/12/30/is-godaddy-typosquatting/</a>

Also, you don't have to be a registrar to get the 5 day grace period to "test" domains for traffic. Many registrars extend this benefit to customers.
Posted by andrew999999999 (42 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Completely misleading and false
Go Daddy does NOT own the domains registered using DomainsbyProxy. GoDaddy running DomainsbyProxy acts as a middle man in order to hide the actual domain registers name, address and email from the who is database, which is regularly data mined by spammers. Behind each and every one of these domains is a go daddy customer who registered and paid for the domain.

And yes, there is rumor of some registrars offering the 5 day grace period to their customers. Go Daddy is *NOT* one of the companies. They have been a HUGE voice in exposing this flim flam scam. Even stating the of 35 million domains registered in one month 32 million where cancelled within the 5 day grace period. note: *FACT* Go Daddy does *NOT* allow any grace period. For more information read <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.bobparsons.com" target="_newWindow">http://www.bobparsons.com</a>
Posted by michael_0001 (10 comments )
Link Flag
I will attempt a suit to end this crap next week.
Posted by curtisneeley (19 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Yep. When you search for a good domain name, you'd better buy it right away, or the registrar will steal it. They all seem to do it.
Posted by Netizen_Kane (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
 

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