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Approximately 1 400 new gTLDs (Generic Top Level Domains) are about to become available. This is a development of paramount proportions that has not been seen since the birth of the web. Many brands see WWW as a sort of Wild Wild Web, where scammers, cyber pirates and counterfeiters run amok to devalue brands such as yours by utilising tactics that leave money on the table, namely yours, by driving traffic to their sites and hence causing brands large and small major losses. Some need to deal with scores, hundreds and even thousands of these online schemes every month.
For the sake of communicating what these threats to your brand(s) are, I will highlight the challenges that big brands face, so all of you will become aware of these threats and use your best judgement on how to deal with them.
The gTLD development that I mentioned above presents brands with risk as well as opportunities to strengthen. The qualities of anonymity, free for all openness and instantaneous reach make the internet a place which is lawless and, as I mentioned, a sort of virtual Wild Wild West.
ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) has consulted with subject matter experts in the field of online branding (trademarking) as well as influential WWW community members to develop a “Trademark Clearinghouse” that will empower rightful brand owners the ability to implement brand protection in one shot that will cover all the new domain extensions to the right of the dot in the context of the DNS (Domain Naming System). They have worked with these experts and community members to put mechanisms in place to protect identities and brands during this huge gTLD expansion.
The mechanisms focus on validating the rightful owners of brands when they register with the clearinghouse and passing along this information to registries and registrars, those who register your domain name for a fee. This they see as providing protection for brands so when someone tries to register that domain with a domain buying service such as GoDaddy, the real brands are alerted and they are granted a 90 day time frame to claim that brand. ICANN sees this as a way to save brands lots of time and money.
If you thought that protecting your brand and trademark in the real world was a hassle, protecting it in the virtual one can be a major headache. However, such trademark infringements can still happen in the instance for example of typo squatting which is when a cyber thief registers a domain such as goochi.com (Gucci). The rightful owner of a brand can only register their exact trademark and not a misspelling of it. So, typo squatting will still run rampant and this is a crime that is responsible for millions of dollars in losses per year for legitimate brands.
FairWindsPartners, a domain strategy and advisory firm did an analysis on variations of domain names of the top 250 traffic-generating sites. Its study concluded that typo squatting cost the rightful owners of those sites over US$360-million and 448-million impressions annually tied to costs of unnecessary advertising, lost sales and poor user experiences.
Though the initiative taken by ICANN is without a doubt a step in the right direction, it does not cover all the bases as mentioned above in the case of typo squatting. There are also more inefficiencies with such a system for brands large and small. Such a clearinghouse system would also not be able to flag registrations that include brands tied to keywords such as NikeBasketballShoes.com for example. But, do you feel you would need to register every misspelt instance of your brand name? Hold on. That is where Brand Protection Technology comes in.
Brand protection technology
An intensive brand protection system goes steps beyond what this trademark clearinghouse would do. It would not just scan a repository of domain names like ICANN’s “trademark clearinghouse” process aims to do. Such a system would utilise sophisticated algorithms, data based on statistics coupled with customisable keyword and semantic analysis that would allow it to scan the web and identify domains that pose a threat to your brand and present you with reports that highlight these threats and prioritise according to risk level.
Have you ever spent time thinking what domains you need to register to expand your brand’s presence? Hold on there as well. Going further than identifying risks, a brand protection system would present you with available domains that would allow you to strategise and strengthen your brand’s value and increase its equity. This will without a doubt allow you to free up resources and continue building your brand
Don’t think either that you need to spend a lot of time trying to figure out how to stop these violators. Whether they be typo wquatters or counterfeiters, a brand protection system will present you with an array of options for dealing with suspected infringements via cease and desist modules and customised templates to contact the suspected infringing parties.
You’ve spent much time and effort building your brand. It doesn’t matter if it be a big brand, medium- sized or small one. I suggest you look at the options available to you and implement a brand protection system that is in line with your needs.
I’d love to hear about any experiences either online or off regarding protecting your brand. Please feel free to comment in the section below.