Test of the Registrars: Trademark Domains

Sep 26 2011

I seemed to ruffle quite a few feathers Friday and over the weekend with my post about domain squatters registering names that clearly violated the Facebook trademark. What ruffled so many of these feathers was the fact that I posted the WHOis information for the individuals that registered the names. While I still maintain that I did nothing wrong as the info posted was clearly public information, one commenter made a pretty good point in my mind. Maybe, and it’s a big maybe, the folks that registered the names didn’t really know what they were doing. Maybe they were new to domaining and didn’t know registering domains that violated trademarks was wrong.

While we have no idea as to how those in question registered the domains, whether online or over the phone with the registrar of their choice, I started to wonder if domain registrars would warn an individual that was about to register such a name. While I do not believe it is the registrar’s responsibility to police what people purchase, I do believe it would be nice if they provided some kind of warning to someone that’s about to make a poor decision whether they know it or not. If I was buying a car and mentioned it was going to make a great getaway vehicle, I’d hope the salesman would advise that perhaps robbing a bank isn’t the best of ideas.

I decided to test out four of the top registrars in the business: Register.com, Network Solutions, GoDaddy, and Enom. I called each registrar with the same questions. I dialed the sales line and posed as a new customer, someone new to domains. I said I have some good ideas for domains but some contained the word Facebook which I knew was trademarked and asked if I was allowed to register the names. Below are a summary of the responses of the sales reps I spoke with at each registrar.

Register.com -Rep advised I should register the domains at my own discretion. Advised me that if Facebook wants the domains I would most likely lose them and it would end up being a waste of money. Did not tell me to not register the names but conveyed a tone that was discouraging to what I was wanting to do.

Network Solutions – Rep did not seem to have any idea. Informed me that I could register the domains if they were available. Did not discourage me in any way. As I kept asking, the rep eventually offered to send me a help article about trademarked domains.

GoDaddy – Rep advised me I would have no problem registering the domains if I really wanted to but warned that I could easliy lose them. Advised me it was not really a good idea.

Enom – Rep advised me to research trademarks before buying. Advised me that if I purchase a trademarked domain I could lose it to the trademark holder. Rep advised not a good idea.

Overall I came away pretty impressed. 3 out of the 4 reps from the registrars tested all seemed to be on the same page. While those three did not tell me not to, they all had a discouraging tone and gave me good warnings as to the consequences of my actions if I chose to proceed with purchasing the names. Obviously I only placed one call to each registrar so it isn’t much of a sample, but I think it provides a good idea as to how the reps at the registrars would react in a similar situation with someone new to domains that had similar questions. What do you think? Feel free to comment and voice your opinion on registrar responsibility. I personally believe it’s the individual’s responsibility to know what they’re doing but it’s good to see the registrars are there to lend a helping hand instead of trying to score a quick sale.

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Outsmarting the Dumb, Outworking the Smart

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3 comments

  1. John

    The auction sites should not allow the names to be posted for sale. They attract bidders and sales occur. The sites end up making money from these auctions, but they should bare some responsibility as well. Some are so obvious with a company name before or after them. It’s no good at the end of the day for the industry, especially if it wants those same end users to be at the auction table for generic or other types of names.

  2. Trico

    “Maybe, and it’s a big maybe, the folks that registered the names didn’t really know what they were doing. Maybe they were new to domaining and didn’t know registering domains that violated trademarks was wrong.”

    Well Chris that’s easy to check.

    DomainTools shows the Registrant of FacebookTimeline.com owns at least 86 other domains.

    Similarly the Registrant of FacebookTimelines.com owns at least 53 other domains.

    So on the surface neither seem to be “innocents”.

    “I started to wonder if domain registrars would warn an individual that was about to register such a (trademark infringing) name. ”

    It’s highly unlikely a Registrar would ever get involved in policing domain registrations that may infringe on Trademarks.

    It would be too difficult and expensive as it couldn’t be automated without lots of false results.

    Almost everything is Trademarked.

    Without knowing the intended use of a domain, it would be difficult to determine infringement.

    Regarding your survey, as you alluded to in your post reaching a different Rep may yield a different result.

  3. Ms Domainer

    *

    Godaddy auctions well-known TM domains all the time.

    So does Namejet and Snapnames.

    As long as the law favors the registrars, this will continue. However, I’m not sure that the legal system should clamp down on registrars because of unintended consequences regarding less known TMs. Almost everything is TM’d these days.

    Still, when some noob spends a lot of money on a TM or typo, there should be some kind of protection in place.

    Otherwise, it can become a VERY expensive lesson.

    *

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