Both budding designers and established giants have valuable trademarks and brand names to protect from a variety of challenges, including dilution and exploitation. An increasingly daunting battlefield that requires vigilance is the Internet.
Typo-squatting, the practice of registering domain names for websites that are meant to capture Internet users who misspell a brand holder’s web address, threatens to weaken the hold brands have in the minds of consumers. By registering a website with a domain name similar to that of a popular legitimate company with a highly trafficked website, these sites prey on users who are actually seeking out legitimate businesses and companies, but have inadvertently misspelled the web address in their browser. These landing pages may look like the genuine sites the consumers were searching for, perhaps displaying the same logos, colors, and fonts, but they are not. For instance, a user intending to surf to “Hollister.com” may accidently enter “Holister.com” or “Hollisster.com” and arrive at a site full of pop-ups, internet ads, or other content seeking to capitalize on the mistake. What to do once these site are discovered?
A remedy of ever increasing use is cancelling or transferring these typo-squatting domains to the legitimate brand holders by enlisting the World Intellectual Property Organization’s (WIPO) Arbitration and Mediation Center. A company like Hermes might discover a typo-squatter with the web address “Hermes.net.” (while Hermes’ official site resides at “Hermes.com”). If Hermes is able to meet basic threshold requirements under the WIPO rules, it has the ability to have these typo-squatter domain names transferred to its rightful ownership, protecting itself from a site that has no legitimate interests in the domain name other than to attract users searching for the genuine Hermes website. The value of the streamlined process under WIPO has yet to be fully realized by many, and those who may be hesitant to pursue these phony websites should have their minds at ease. An experienced attorney can spearhead a successful campaign for a brand holder of reasonable size that swiftly and efficiently removes these illegitimate sites, keeping them from preying on hard won consumers.