Facebook Typosquatters Pay Heavy Price



The owners of domain names such as dacebook, facegbook and faacebok thought they’d make a fortune from fat-fingered Facebook users. In fact they’ll be paying Facebook around $2.8 million.

Facebook has become one of the first high-profile winners under the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act, a 1999 law that offers limited protection to firms against people trying to profit unfairly from domain names. The law only kicks in where two separate criteria are met: that the name is identical or “confusingly similar” to a well-established trademark, and that the name was registered in bad faith.

The law is a little subjective about exactly how widely recognized a term must be before it can get such protection. That’s not much of an issue in this case as there’s little dispute that Facebook is a well-known term associated with a specific company.

According to TechCrunch, this appears to be the first time that a case has got as far as a court determining the offenders have breached the law and then deciding on a penalty. In this case, none of the offenders entered a defense so it was a default judgment.

Facebook’s lawsuit, which began in July 2011, had asked for the maximum possible penalty of $100,000 for each of the 105 domains cited in the case. The court rules this¬†wasn’t appropriate as it didn’t take into account individual circumstances. Instead the court is setting an individual per-domain penalty of $5,000 for each of the various offenders and then doubling it if:

  • they used the domains to set up pages that included logos, wording or coloring suspiciously reminiscent of Facebook itself;
  • they used the term “Facebook” (correctly spelled”) on the webpage at their typo domain; or
  • they registered domains in bulk (one firm registered 50 terms at once.)

Defendants who tried to hide their true identity when registering a domain will pay a further $10,000.
The court noted the maximum penalty should be reserved for offenders who registered a domain name that was identical to the disputed term rather than being a “typo” version. However, those who used a longer domain name that included “Facebook” (such as gfacebook.com) will pay an extra $10,000.

The verdict also gives Facebook the right to ownership of the disputed domains.


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