Dell Sues Cybersquatters For Elaborate Shell Game

from the catch-me-if-you-can.com dept

Hearing stories about cybersquatters taking domains that are confusingly similar to corporate names is nothing new, but a new lawsuit from Dell shows just how far some firms are taking the practice. Dell has sued a group of registrars claiming that they're really a series of shell companies designed to sit on various squatted domains for free. It's no secret that a common practice among domain squatters is to register a domain and put ads on it for a few days to see if it drives any revenue -- and if it doesn't to return the domain within the grace period. We had always heard of this practice as being called "domain kiting," but Dell refers to it (more aptly) as "domain tasting" in its lawsuit. However, what's interesting here is that they're accusing one company of setting up a long series of shell corporations to keep registering the same domain name over and over again -- getting the benefit of the traffic without ever having to pay for the domain name. For example, Dell notes that one company registered "dellfinacncialservices.com" and used it for 5 days (the limit you can go without paying) before abandoning it. However, as soon as it was abandoned, another firm picked up, used it for 5 days and then abandoned it again, only to see another firm immediately pick it up. Basically, they trace a pretty compelling pattern to suggest that this was a coordinated effort, potentially by a single company.

The other interesting part about the lawsuit is that rather than focusing on standard laws having to do with cybersquatting, Dell has gone a step further and is claiming that registering domain names with the Dell name in them is akin to "counterfeiting." That seems like quite a stretch -- and even the legal expert quoted in the article seems to think it's a long shot for Dell to make that argument. If they win on this argument, then it could spell a lot of trouble for people who happen to own domain names that are similar to the names of large corporations. For many years, we've covered the fight between Nissan (the automaker) and Uzi Nissan, the guy who owns Nissan.com (this story is getting some more attention this week, thanks to a Freakonomics post, but the story itself has dragged on for years). Presumably, if Dell wins their case, then Nissan could turn around and accuse Nissan.com of "counterfeiting" and have a pretty strong precedent to back it up.

Filed Under: domain kiting, domain names, domain tasting, registrars
Companies: dell


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  1. identicon
    linuxamp, 29 Nov 2007 @ 8:11pm

    This is where juries are necessary. Black and white laws, while easy to interpret can sometimes have adverse effects. In the case of Nissan, this guy had a company for quite some time, his name is Nissan, and he's using the site for business. It seems that a jury should be able to distinguish this from counterfeiting.

    On the other hand, would it mean that sites that use a misspelling of a name which are obviously counterfeit sites be protected against this? mcaffee.com

    And lastly what about names that are not company names but sound like a product that a company may produce? icar.com ikeyboard.com itable.com

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