Cybersquatting* remains a prevalent issue in the legacy generic top-level domain (gTLD) space – .COM, .INFO, etc. – and the practice is already commonplace in the new generic top-level domain (gTLD) space as well. As we’ve noted before, there are reports of cybersquatting in new gTLDs such as .CLOTHING and .GURU.
Coverage of the .EMAIL gTLD has also focused on cybersquatting. It has been well documented that one registrant has registered 4,000 .EMAIL domain names and has been pulled into arbitration by multiple companies. He is currently fighting the result against one of these arbitrations, which, like the others, found him to be registering the domain name in bad faith (in other words, the registrant is unlikely to have registered the domain name for something like a legitimate business venture or free-speech protected content.)
We recently took a look at the .EMAIL new gTLD ourselves. Taking each Fortune 500 company’s consumer-facing site, we exchanged the TLD for .EMAIL: so, brand.com became brand.email. Next we examined which of those .EMAIL domain names have actually already been registered and if so, by whom and what sort of content, if any, they are hosting.
What did we find?
- Twenty-two percent of the domain names we examined have been registered, and it appears as though only 18 percent of those registered domain names have been registered by the corresponding brand or host legitimate third-party content.
- In this case, we considered legitimate third-party content to be content that does not infringe on another brand’s name: For example, there could be a situation where two brand use the same generic name to sell vastly different products. Another example is free-speech protected content, such as a parody site.
- It appears as though only 10 percent of the examined domain names have been blocked.
- A “block” is different from a registration. About half of the open, new gTLDs that are launching have implemented a bulk “block” registration option, wherein brand owners can pay a one-time fee to block all domain name registrations containing their brand/trademark across several gTLDs – .EMAIL is one of the new gTLDs in which brands can block a domain name that is an exact match to their brand/trademark.
- Sure enough, 43 percent of the registered domain names were registered by just one registrant – the very same registrant who has been taken to arbitration for some of his .EMAIL registrations.
Based on our findings, the .EMAIL gTLD is definitely one that would benefit from further study to better understand how widespread the cybersquatting problem is and how better to deter the practice.
* Cybersquatting is the bad-faith use of domain names that are confusingly similar to existing trademarks. In addition to infringing on relevant trademark rights, these domains are sometimes also used to conduct a variety of illegal and illicit practices, such as delivering malware that hacks into computers, selling counterfeit goods, stealing personal information, or generating revenue from deceptive advertising ruses.