Scouring the Internet for an authentic Albert Pujols jersey to commemorate the 2011 World Series? Before you bust out your credit card, take careful note of the website hawking the goods. Just as the St. Louis Cardinals were orchestrating one of the greatest comebacks in baseball history, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) division cracked down on 58 websites hawking counterfeit goods that infringed on trademarks owned by Major League Baseball, as well as by the NBA, the NFL, and the NHL. The story, along with a complete list of the seized domains, was covered by Internet Retailer this week.
A quick look at the list of the seized domain names reveals that 31 out of the 58 contained team, league, or company trademarks, such as MinnesotaTwinsStore.com, CoolNFLJerseys.com, and CheapNikeDunksOnline.com. This underscores the wisdom that cybersquatting is sometimes a means to an end for cybercriminals; in this case, it was used to sell counterfeit goods, while in other cases, it is used to spread malware or phish for sensitive information.
As we so often see in our work here at FairWinds, by taking advantage of well-known, trusted brands and marks, cybersquatters are not only able to drive Internet traffic to their sites, but they can also manufacture a sense of legitimacy that woos customers into purchasing counterfeit items or divulging personal information. For brands, the problem is obvious: this practice infringes on their intellectual property, dilutes their brand, and leads to negative customer experiences.
As in baseball, the best defense is a strong offense. Brand owners must proactively register strategic domain names and then develop a systematic approach towards monitoring the domain landscape and recovering any infringing domains. Failure to do so may leave you down by two runs with only one strike left in Game 6. While the Cards pulled it off, I’m betting that’s a risk to your brand and your company that you’re just not willing to take.
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