Allegations of .ie cybersquatting


19 Jun 2006

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Big brand names such as Nike, Adidas, Bebo and iPod have been reserved by cyber-squatters, internet industry professionals have claimed. The chief executive of Ireland’s domain registry (IEDR) David Curtin confirmed that there was a small number of instances where high-profile names have been registered.

Brian Greene of Doop Design brought to the attention of siliconrepublic.com in recent weeks a situation whereby domains such as police.ie, british.ie, look.ie, ipod.ie, adidas.ie, nike.ie and bebo.ie were registered by individuals known as Gabor Varga and Jozsef Petho.

This is despite the fact that the IEDR is a ‘managed registry’ that will not grant .ie domains to generic names or organisations unless they are a registered company or can prove their right to the name.

Curtin confirmed that the domains had been registered. He said: “Yes, it is true that there’s a small number of instances where high-profile names have been registered. Yes, we are concerned. We were concerned enough about it to contact the Companies Registrations Office (CRO) and we have written to APTMA (the Patent Attorneys Association) highlighting the issue and asking them to be vigilant and inform their clients who may not have taken the precaution of registering the internet addresses concerned.”

Of the individuals that managed to register the domains, Curtin said: “Their application to us was supported by a valid registered business number (RBN) that they attained from the CRO. If they have an RBN it means they have a valid registered business name and are in accordance with our rules.

“We spoke to the CRO and asked them what conditions they apply to awarding an RBN. They must have a business address in Ireland and this condition appears to have been met. The CRO’s official position is that it is a matter for the patent holder or trademark holder and the remedy is the civil courts. There is also the option of dispute resolution adjudicated by the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO),” Curtin said.

“This is really a recent phenomena, only since last November. Before that we haven’t encountered this issue. We are surprised that this practice is going on.”

Curtin said that in these particular cases because .ie is a managed registry, holders of domain names can’t buy or sell their names. “There is risk involved in selling a .ie domain. To move a domain from one person to the next involves deleting and reregistering the domain. A .ie domain name is not a buy or sell option. Therefore the monetary benefit to these individuals is limited.”

Michele Neylon of Blacknight Solutions, a collocation and brand-protection specialist, said that the rules of awarding names on the .ie domain need to be re-evaluated. “Under the current rules, a registered business name is a claim to a domain name. However, if I was running a sportshop and happened to be reselling Adidas gear, it means I have an entitlement to an Adidas-related name.”

Neylon also pointed to the trend of typosquatting, a form of cybersquatting which relies on mistakes such as typographical errors made by internet users when inputting an internet address into a web browser. Should a user accidentally enter an incorrect website address, they may be led to an alternative address owned by a cyber-squatter.

Curtin agreed that this could also happen and that the perpetrators could benefit from pay-per-click revenues. “But that would be small for what cyber-squatters hope for, such as a few thousand euros for the entitled owners to buy back the domain name.”

Eoin Costello of hosting provider Novara.ie also pointed to what he feels is a weakness in the system for awarding .ie domain names. “Any person in the street can get a business name registered with the CRO. At the moment the IEDR doesn’t perform tests on affected domains.

“The problem at the moment is that they’re applying registrations by rules that are too literal in interpretation in terms of the classes that people apply under. They are therefore open to exploitation,” Costello warned.

By John Kennedy