Quick. What is the official website address of Amitabh Bachchan? You are wrong if you thought it is www. AmitabhBachchan.com. You are again wrong if you thought it is www. AmitabhBachchan.in or .net. All these domain names are booked by someone else. Most top stars are guilty as well. Salman Khan, Rajinikanth, Kareena Kapoor, Hrithik Roshan don’t own their own domain names. It’s not just film stars who are dumb when it comes to online brand consciousness. Top companies like Tata, State Bank of India, The Hindu newspaper, Satyam Computers have had their domain names booked by opportunistic miscreants. They all had to fight painful court battles to regain their online identities.
Cybersquatting is the habit of booking domain names for which you don’t have trademark rights. There are people who book domain names for the sole purpose of profiting from the domain by either selling advertisements or selling the domain name at a later date for a higher amount. Or worse, they may use it for pornography or criminal activities such as phishing for passwords and bank account details.
State Bank of India learnt it the hard way. An Australian had booked www.sbicards.com and made the website look so authentic that he managed to fool big companies like Chase Manhattan bank into advertising on his site.
Cybersquatters are increasingly becoming clever in usurping names because there is big money. They now get into a new medium called ‘typosquatting’, meaning that they also book names that are commonly mis-spelt. For example, www.cococola.com, www.huyundai.com, www.pespi.com. Such domain name offer cybersquatters an opportunity to put pay-per-click ads and profit from them.
Incidentally, one of the most popular domain extensions is ‘.CM’. This domain extension belongs to Cameroon and the cyber-squatters, smelling opportunity, have convinced the country to give them access to most popular domain names in exchange for money. For example, www.google.cm takes to a page which has many fraud links. Some companies like Yahoo have been careful and booked Yahoo.cm and redirected them to their main website.
You must also be careful about booking similar sounding names as well. Today, I spoke with the CEO of a company over phone and he told me that the name of the company which sounded to me like WhoHe.com. It was only later I found that the actual spelling is www.Hooeey.com
Book Country Specific Domain Names: With businesses going global, its important to see if your company owns country specific domain names. Unfortunately, I’m witnessing that many multinational companies haven’t booked the ‘.in’ domain. They only think of it when they want to establish their business here in India, but by then someone else has already booked it. For example, the Indian domain of TechCrunch, the famed web 2.0 blog, (www.TechCrunch.in) is owned by a software guy in Chennai.
As a person who wants to protect your company’s names, you should also proactively book domain names that has negative connotation. For example, if you are the brand manger of Reliance, you are better off blocking domains like RelianceSucks.com and RelianceCheats.com because they could so easily be misused by others.
There are online services that help you do just that. www.CitizenHawk.com suggests possible misspelling for your brand names and helps book them for you. If the names are already taken by others, they help in retrieving them through legal process. The best fight back of course is you being proactively cautious.