Don’t You Dare Misspell

A lot of people probably don’t realise that auDA has a prohibition on the registration of well-known brand names that are obvious misspellings.

And before you start, I know what you’re thinking! Yes, auDA does have a prohibition on lots of things. ūüėÄ

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let me show you why I think this particular policy has lots of flaws.

  • If you’re of a mind to do so (and I am not), you can “cybersquat” the proper spelling of a brand name and take your chances that you won’t get “pinged” by the legitimate brand holder. Some people continue to get away with this for ages.
  • But if you register a domain that is an obvious misspelling of a “branded” domain name, then you are guaranteed to get whacked by auDA. Why? Because it’s on the “misspelling list” – and they audit these names on a regular basis.

Does that sound ridiculous to you? It does to me – and on last year’s Names Panel, I gave examples of how ludicrous this situation is. I also raised it at the 2014 auDA AGM.

The Actual Policy

You can read that here – it’s not very long. To illustrate the points that I raised above, there are two excerpts that I would like to quote from Section 3:

3.1 auDA‚Äôs objective in enforcing a prohibition on misspellings is to preserve the integrity of the .au domain space by discouraging ‚Äútyposquatting‚ÄĚ, whereby a person deliberately registers a misspelling of a popular domain name in order to divert trade or traffic.

3.3 auDA is also aware that some prohibited misspellings are repeatedly re-registered for the purpose of domain monetisation. In order to deal effectively with this category of prohibited misspellings, auDA will use the audit process set out in section 6 of this policy.

Some Examples

First up, here is a link to the actual auDA Misspellings List (it’s in Excel format). I’m going to reference certain domain names from it.

Wikipedia.com.au – proper spelling. Purchased on the drop auctions back in September 2014, and still registered to someone with no apparent connection to the brand. Does not currently resolve.

Wikkipedia this is at line 2374 on the misspellings list. Register this word as a domain to get some typo traffic, and it will be automatically taken away from you.

Toyota.net.au – proper spelling. Purchased on the drop auctions, and still registered to someone with no apparent connection to the brand. Resolves to a SEDO parking page with a “for sale” banner.

Misspellings of “Toyota” – look at how many entries they have on the list! Register any of these words as a domain to get some typo traffic, and it / they will be automatically taken away from you. Yet the proper spelling in a net.au doesn’t get touched.

  • toyat.com.au
  • toyata.com.au
  • toyato.com.au
  • toyoa.com.au
  • toyoat.com.au
  • toyoda.com.au
  • toyora.com.au
  • toyot.com.au
  • toyotal.com.au
  • toyote.com.au
  • toyoto.com.au
  • toyotoa.com.au
  • toyots.com.au
  • toyouta.com.au
  • toyoyta.com.au
  • toyt.com.au
  • toyta.com.au
  • toytoa.com.au
  • toytota.com.au

Inconsistency

How do some brand names end up with spelling permutations of their names on this official misspelling list – and yet, others do not? Take these as examples not currently on the list:

Adidas.net.au – purchased on the drops a couple of times over past few years. Registered to someone with no apparent connection to the brand. Does not currently resolve.

Benetton.com.au – purchased on the expired auctions a couple of years ago, and currently parked with Netfleet.

Blatant cybersquatting in my opinion, yet they get away with it. There are many similar examples.

This Is Ridiculous

Here’s an interesting example for you. The domain Emirates.com.au was purchased some time ago by someone who put up a basic info page about the Emirates as a geographic location. Under policy, this (on the face of it) is permitted.

However, if you have a look at the misspellings list from lines 793 to 798, the well-known airline has managed to get some misspellings on there.

  • emerates.com.au
  • emerites.com.au
  • emirateairlines.com.au
  • emiratesair.com.au
  • emiratesairlines.com.au
  • emirites.com.au

Go figure!

In My Opinion

auDA does not need a misspellings list – and certainly not one that contains some brands and not others. There is just no consistency in this approach.

Brands and businesses are already protected under auDA policy – see Schedule C – Clause (3b).

b) the domain name must not be, or incorporate, an entity name, personal name or brand name in existence at the time the domain name was registered*.

* Definitions:

‚Äúentity name‚ÄĚ means the name of an Australian registered company or incorporated association as listed with the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC), or the name of an Australian government body. It does not include a registered business name;
‚Äúpersonal name‚ÄĚ means the given name(s) and/or last name of a person; and
‚Äúbrand name‚ÄĚ means the name of an identifiable and distinctive product or service, whether commercial or non-commercial.

What do you think?

Ned O’Meara – 13 September 2016


Disclaimer

Disclaimer 2

12 thoughts on “Don’t You Dare Misspell

  • Avatar
    September 13, 2016 at 11:45 am
    Permalink

    Without a doubt, this is 1 of the strangest and most awkward policies in the whole domain industry. ¬†And we can call it strange objectively …¬†because other registry operators simply don’t try to do this.

    Cybersquatting ought to be curbed. ¬†But the solution ISN’T for 1 person or¬†1 office to PREEMPT all the various¬†permutations and misspellings of brand names past, present, and future. ¬†It’s impossible to anticipate what so many cybersquatters will do.

    If the prohibited list is too large, then it prevents legitimate access to the name space. ¬†And if the prohibited list is too small, then protection is inconsistent ‚Äď afforded only arbitrarily to a few brands and not to all. ¬†This approach simply doesn’t work.

    Most registry operators use CROWD SOURCING for the solution.  Instead of burdening themselves with the thankless, endless, futile job of banning this domain or permitting this domain, most registry operators let brand owners decide what matters.  Simply give the public a flexible mechanism for dealing with bad-faith registrations, and the problem takes care of itself.

    Elsewhere in the industry, that’s what we’ve done. ¬†Yes, there are flaws in¬†the UDRP and the URS. ¬†Those dispute mechanisms don’t work perfectly ‚Äď neither for trademark owners nor domain owners. ¬†But the policies are up for review, and the system is accessible to everyone. ¬†Cybersquatters either fail to make money and give up, or else they succeed in being pests ‚Äď in which case something like the UDRP obliterates them.

    Most cases of cybersquatting actually have no discernible effect. ¬†Typo traffic is usually low. ¬†And PPC earnings are much lower in 2016 than they were many years ago. ¬†The vast majority of cybersquatters are na√Įvely hoping to make a fortune through parking or else to resell their variant domains to a specific target ‚Äď I might even say¬†“victim”. ¬†But 99% of them will fail to do either, and they’ll pay an expensive lesson simply as a result of bad speculation. ¬†Those squatted-upon domains tend to drop. Often¬†the best approach is to ignore them.

    Some registry operators actually make money by opening up their process. ¬†For example, Donuts sells a DPML block, which bars registrations of a given string throughout the numerous nTLDs that Donuts manages. ¬†It’s often cheaper to prevent than to correct cases of cybersquatting. ¬†So there’s a natural market demand for this sort of thing. ¬†If the AUDA really intends to maintain a prohibited list, then why shouldn’t the organization earn revenue as a result of undertaking that chore?

    One thing the AUDA might consider is this: ¬†Sell bundles of typo domains at a reduced bulk rate. ¬†But only sell them to documented¬†owners of matching .AU domains. ¬†For example, if Toyota wants to block typos of “Toyota”, then how about allowing Toyota to register 20 or 100 misspellings at a reduced cost, mandating a 5 or 10-year registration period?

    That’s a win-win, as far as I can see. ¬†By owning the typos, Toyota can redirect those domains to its website, reducing traffic leakage. ¬†Plus, the domains are kept out of the hands of cybersquatters. ¬†Since the cost is reduced, established brands are more likely to register these domains, which otherwise would simply be unused. The AUDA earns money¬†as a result. ¬†And the process by which a prohibited list is created becomes financially self-sustaining and accessible to all domain owners, which is more equitable.

    • Avatar
      September 13, 2016 at 4:31 pm
      Permalink

      The upstream PPC providers do block infringing domains, so an AUDA role is pretty much redundant in that sphere.

    • Ned O'Meara
      September 14, 2016 at 8:26 am
      Permalink

      @Joseph

      One thing the AUDA might consider is this:  Sell bundles of typo domains at a reduced bulk rate.  But only sell them to documented owners of matching .AU domains.

      It seems auDA “sort of” did this with the example that Robert gave in his guest article. “Flybys.com.au” was on the misspelling list; he registered it for what he deemed was a legitimate purpose (courier company), but it still got taken off him; then “somehow” it disappeared from the list when the the big corporate registered it for themselves.

      Whether Robert was legitimately entitled to register the domain is besides the point. If the big corporate thought he wasn’t, then they had an easy and free way to make a complaint. Or they could go the auDRP route.

      Imo, a “hit and miss” misspellings list is therefore unfair; and a waste of time and resources.

  • Avatar
    September 13, 2016 at 1:52 pm
    Permalink

    Spot on, Ned.

    I like your ideas, Joseph.

    It is CRAZY that the prohibited misspellings list exists.

  • tim connell
    September 13, 2016 at 3:44 pm
    Permalink

    i like the discounted misspells¬†idea, “send us the list, we’ll review it for a fee and then you can register at X per domain”

    tim

  • Avatar
    September 13, 2016 at 3:55 pm
    Permalink

    Flawed and outdated. Time to vote it out.

  • Avatar
    September 13, 2016 at 4:15 pm
    Permalink

    “4.1 a) the singular version of a plural name, or the plural version of a singular name”

    In particular is objectionable. ¬† You putting a claim in for¬†domainers.com.au (tongue-in-cheek) ūüėČ

  • Avatar
    September 13, 2016 at 6:44 pm
    Permalink

    The list should not exist. The onus should be on the IP holder.

  • Avatar
    September 14, 2016 at 3:02 am
    Permalink

    auDA can delete their misspelling list and let registrants and complaints deal with the matter directly.

    In many cases¬† some “brands” are nothing more than generic words or numbers ( Billabong, Three etc) , locations or regions ( Emirates) , fruits ( Apple, Orange, mango..)¬† etc.

    • Ned O'Meara
      September 14, 2016 at 8:32 am
      Permalink

      Totally agree Sean. Good to see you posting!

      When I was researching my article yesterday, I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw TownsvilleCouncil.com.au listed as a “misspelling” (just near the “Toyota” names). That’s not a misspelling! So auDA probly need to change the name to “Misspellings and other names we’ve agreed to restrict List”. ūüėČ

Comments are closed.