FreeCreditReport Wins Over 1,000 Domain Names In Dispute Process

from the trademark-control dept

It's quite common for various trademark holders to go through the UDRP domain dispute process to get back domains held by cybersquatters. Still, it's quite impressive to hear that FreeCreditReport.com was able to get 1,017 separate domain names in a single dispute (found via Slashdot) apparently by using some sort of software that identified all the domains. The company that held the domain names argued, in part, that the term "free credit report" should be seen as generic, not a specific trademark, but the arbitration board simply said that since the USPTO had granted FreeCreditReport.com with a trademark, that the trademark was solid -- and thus most domain names that included those words could be turned over.

This does raise some questions however -- since we've seen plenty of other cases where domains that included trademarked terms, but which would not be confusing to users (such as "trademarknamesucks.com"), have been allowed to be used by the original registrant, rather than handed over to the trademark holder. It's unclear, in this case, if some of those domains were like that -- or if they were all pure squatter domains. Still, it's quite an impressive haul by FCR.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    waste of money, Nov 16th, 2009 @ 6:14pm

    Kind of silly

    So, what will they do with them?
    Let's assume $10 per yr, that would be $10170.00 just to maintain them for one year. Are there really that many ignorant people paying for their "free credit report" ?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 16th, 2009 @ 6:23pm

    free credit report dot com is IMHO one of the most misleading business models ever created. It's all about "free", but there is nothing free. You get asterix'ed into having to pay a high monthly rate to get something you don't want, in order to get the free thing you did want. Worse yet, it has been suggested in some places that the free report is actually one of the weakest reports possible.

    They make a ton of money the old fashioned way.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
    icon
    mobiGeek (profile), Nov 16th, 2009 @ 6:31pm

    Re:

    Not my choice of approaches, but it proves that the "free" business model works.

    ;-)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 16th, 2009 @ 6:39pm

    Looks like this one was mostly dealing with typo-squatters and obvious attempts to manipulate SEO. Didn't say anything about critical registrations.

    What's amusing is the bit where they talk about how free credit report was represented, not by lawyers, but by this automated UDRP service. The whole thing looks to me like scammers representing scammers who are being impersonated by scammers.

     

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  5.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 16th, 2009 @ 7:01pm

    I like the pirates.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 16th, 2009 @ 7:06pm

    Fear the credit report! Woooo!

    I have a problem with getting a "Free Credit Report"...

    from a site that requires me to enroll in a monthly credit monitoring service called "Triple Advantage"...

    that's also conveniently owned by a Credit Bureau...

    when I am entitled to a free credit report under The Fair Credit Reporting Act.

    I may not be as big of a pushover as most, but is there something wrong with this logic? Because it seems like someone's making a lot of money off of playing to people's fears.

    I worry more about these people who work at the bureaus--
    "Better make sure dem interwebs people aren't settin' up fake free credit report sites when we need to corner the market..!"

     

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  7.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 16th, 2009 @ 7:19pm

    Re:

    Funny. Your link to the FTC Website has this to say:

    A Warning About "Imposter" Websites

    Only one website is authorized to fill orders for the free annual credit report you are entitled to under law — annualcreditreport.com.

    Other websites that claim to offer "free credit reports," "free credit scores," or "free credit monitoring" are not part of the legally mandated free annual credit report program.

    In some cases, the "free" product comes with strings attached. For example, some sites sign you up for a supposedly "free" service that converts to one you have to pay for after a trial period.

    If you don’t cancel during the trial period, you may be unwittingly agreeing to let the company start charging fees to your credit card.


    I wonder who the FTC is talking about. Any guesses?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
    icon
    Rose M. Welch (profile), Nov 16th, 2009 @ 7:41pm

    Re:

    Worse yet, it has been suggested in some places that the free report is actually one of the weakest reports possible.

    Whoever suggested that is an idiot. Under the FACT Act amendments to the Fair Credit Reporting Act, you are entitled to one free credit report from each of the three main credit reporting companies in a 12-month period.

    Here is the link to the Fair Credit Reporting Act .pdf:

    http://www.ftc.gov/os/statutes/031224fcra.pdf

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 16th, 2009 @ 8:13pm

    Re:

    I like the robots more. The ninjas suck.

     

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  10.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 16th, 2009 @ 8:14pm

    Re: Re:

    Yogi Berra!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 16th, 2009 @ 8:47pm

    A consumer advocate named Clark Howard unleashed some major whoop ass on this company. He did a segment that aired on one of my city's radio stations and he mentioned that the FTC has put out some radio and TV PSA (public service announcement) ads that mock truecreditreport and their stupid advertising jingle. However, the company has behaved itself enough so that they aren't in danger of being shut down by the Feds, at least not yet, which I don't understand.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
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    mobiGeek (profile), Nov 16th, 2009 @ 8:55pm

    Re: Re:

    How does that prove that this company's credit report is not weak (i.e. they don't do a very good job of generating that "free" report)?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 17th, 2009 @ 12:17am

    Re: Re:

    Why is the FTC telling people about potential Truth In Advertising infractions on it's own website? There seem to be some major problems here.

    Also, why is the Federal Reserve now tasked with overseeing Gift Card legislation and not the FTC?

    There used to be a time, not long ago, that the FTC had teeth to rip apart the fast food industry for showing burgers that were inedible. What happened?

    Why is the FTC warning me about impostor websites that I thought it had the ability to regulate through Truth In Advertising?

    The promise of a "Free Credit Report" seems very applicable.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
    identicon
    Wolferz, Nov 17th, 2009 @ 12:17am

    FYI...

    For those that don't know... the *truly* free method for getting your credit report online as outlined by the FACT Act is annualcreditreport.com. This is the only site promoted by the federal government for this purpose and can be used to get a credit report from all three credit bureaus. Each individual bureau's site will still try to get you to sign up for some service or other as you click through... but it *is* optional.

    On a side note... who is going to sue freecreditreport.com and the like for trying to cash in on the FACT Act through misleading advertising?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
    identicon
    Alan Shore, Nov 17th, 2009 @ 1:09am

    Re: Re: Re:

    I could be wrong, but it seemed that The US Government stopped proactively researching Truth-In-Advertising as one of the conditions after one of the big Tobacco settlements.

    My memory is somewhat fading, but I think as a result of a settlement of some sort, legislature castrated the FTC and DOJ to only able to get involved after there's a civil dispute that makes it's way to a Circuit level.

    Of course, I could be completely wrong.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 17th, 2009 @ 1:10am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Because these sites DO have the information regarding recurring charges on their site. It's actually on the front page, it's on the bottom of the screen during commercials, and there's a fast voice-over that declaims it. Thus, they aren't being 'deceptive' according to law. However people miss it, so they put it up there... for the people who wouldn't have missed it in the first place.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 17th, 2009 @ 1:18am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Yes, however the promise of a "Free Credit Report" seems to drive people to a different site than http://www.annualcreditreport.com

    After all, "Only one website is authorized to fill orders for the free annual credit report you are entitled to under law — annualcreditreport.com. " (Source: FTC Website)

    This seems fishy and the FTC should investigate it further.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
    icon
    Paul Alan Levy (profile), Nov 17th, 2009 @ 4:59am

    The list of domain names

    The list of domain names at issue can be found at the end of the decision, posted on the National Arbitration Forum site here: http://domains.adrforum.com/domains/decisions/1283469.htm.

    Most of the names are typographical variations on the freecreditreport.com scheme, or add state names to that name.

    I didn't notice any domain names that expressly included critical words, but in isolation that would not matter if, for example, one of these names had been registered for a web site that comments on freecreditreport.com. However, the very length of the list of typosquat-type names tends to suggest what the registrant was trying to do.

    A few are rather curious, though. For example, these three domain names: , , . None of these doamin names are actually about the complainant, because a review of the "freecrecitreport.com" site suggests that you cannot get your report without giving a credit card number. The site says:

    IMPORTANT INFORMATION:

    When you order your free report here, you will begin your free trial membership in Triple Advantage(SM). If you don't cancel your membership within the 7-day trial period†, you will be billed $14.95 for each month that you continue your membership.

    I did not give them any info about myself to sign up, but presumably you have to give a credit card number for them to effectuate the monthly billing that is automatic for those who don't cancel.....

     

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  19.  
    icon
    Paul Alan Levy (profile), Nov 17th, 2009 @ 5:05am

    the three names that got dropped from the previous comment were:

    1) freecreditreportwithnocreditcard.com

    2) freecreditreportwithoutcreditcard.com>

    3) freecreditreportwithoutusingacreditcard.com

     

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  20.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 17th, 2009 @ 8:42am

    So if I offer free credit reports what should I do to communicate that I'm offering free credit reports without using the words free credit reports? Credit reports that are free? What if that gets trademarked? We need to create a new language and release every word and phrase under a creative commons license or something similar.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 17th, 2009 @ 10:51am

    Re:

    The issue is only about using freecreditreports as part of the domain name not as descriptive text

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
    identicon
    Rich Kulawiiec, Nov 17th, 2009 @ 1:59pm

    This is excellent news

    Having all 1000+ names in the decision spares me the task of collating them from multiple sources; now I can just permanently blacklist them all at once.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
    identicon
    batch, Nov 17th, 2009 @ 4:09pm

    Arbitration is rarely fair

    Arbitration is a joke. They side with whomever pays them more often, so in a example dispute between yourself and the cellphone provider (manditory binding arbitration is in your contract) you will lose because if the arbitrator sides against you they'll be fired by the company who brings business your way all the time rather than you, the individual whose good for one dispute.

    Free Credit Report at least had a claim, and wasn't doing something which could be described as cyber squating, so they had that going for them.

    Fun facts about the National Arbitration Forum and how they rule against Citizen Joe 95% of the time
    http://consumerist.com/304648/arbitration-firm-rules-against-consumers-95-of-the-time

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24.  
    icon
    Rose M. Welch (profile), Nov 21st, 2009 @ 12:21am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Did you read the document? If so, read it again. The Act requires that they furnish you the same report that they would furnish a paying company. Even previous to the establishment of the Act, they have one report per person. They don't generate a crappy report and a comprehensive report. :)

    Further, your credit report not only provides you with all of the information in your credit file that could be provided by the consumer reporting company in a consumer report about you to a third party, but it also includes a record of everyone who has received a consumer report about you from the consumer reporting company within a certain period of time.

    If anything it's better, not worse, because it is more comprehensive.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25.  
    icon
    Rose M. Welch (profile), Nov 21st, 2009 @ 12:24am

    Re: Re: Re:

    The FTC investigates sites that offer products that do bodily harm first, large amounts of money next, and so on down the line. This is explained on their website.

    As far as this particular scam goes (and it is a scam), it seems like it's just not high enough on the food chain to warrant a smack-down with the resources that they currently have.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
    icon
    Rose M. Welch (profile), Nov 21st, 2009 @ 12:25am

    Re:

    The FTC investigates sites that offer products that do bodily harm first, large amounts of money next, and so on down the line. This is explained on their website.

    As far as this particular scam goes (and it is a scam), it seems like it's just not high enough on the food chain to warrant a smack-down with the resources that they currently have.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
    icon
    Rose M. Welch (profile), Nov 21st, 2009 @ 12:25am

    Re:

    The FTC investigates sites that offer products that do bodily harm first, large amounts of money next, and so on down the line. This is explained on their website.

    As far as this particular scam goes (and it is a scam), it seems like it's just not high enough on the food chain to warrant a smack-down with the resources that they currently have.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28.  
    identicon
    wvhillbilly, Nov 25th, 2009 @ 8:07pm

    rogue trademarks

    I thought you were not allowed to register generic words as trademarks. Monster Cable some years ago claimed "monster" as a trademark and drove people nuts by suing anybody and everybody who used the word "monster" in any kind of commercial context for infringing their trademark. Of course with the overloaded USPTO rubberstamping much of what comes through there, I suppose you can expect this sort of thing.

    -wvhillbilly-lost account in hard drive crash

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29.  
    icon
    mobiGeek (profile), Jan 6th, 2010 @ 10:50pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Again, what's to say that the report these folks generate, paid or otherwise, is simply weak?

    Just because they *can* and are *obliged* to provide a report including the things you say doesn't mean that they do. The report involves running queries with correct parameters to the right databases. It is quite possible these people don't know how to, or don't go to the effort of, doing this properly.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30.  
    identicon
    techdigi, Mar 29th, 2010 @ 7:37pm

    wondering

    I wonder when people will stand up together and file a lawsuit against freecreditreport.com and its sister sites? Shouldn't we as a civil and democratic country be entitled to shut down places like that? I thought you can't mislead people, especially at times like these

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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