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Domain names and typosquatting

Published December 18, 2010

Typosquatting is a form of cybersquatting that can erode a company's brand and contribute to a reduction in sales; or add to the cost of sales.

Typosquatters register domain names that are misspellings of a brand or business and rely on Internet users who enter an incorrectly spelled domain name into their browsers; which isn't an uncommon occurrence.

Typosquatter sites usually consist of advertising related to the brand in question, or a competing brand. It can be a lucrative practice, with reports of some typosquatters earning in excess of a million dollars a year. In such cases, thousands of "typo" domains are usually involved. According to recent research from Tyler Moore and Ben Edelman (PDF), 938,000 typosquatting domains target the top 3, 264 .com sites

Preventing typosquatting can be an expensive exercise as it requires registering many variations of a domain name. Some larger companies may have hundreds of "typo" domain names registered in order to protect their brands.

For the small business owner, registering so many domain names may simply not be financially viable. However, as with cybersquatting, if a business becomes a victim of typosquatting, there is recourse via WIPO, the World Intellectual Property Organization. WIPO is an agency of the United Nations and offers domain name dispute resolution services under the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP). Unfortunately, the service is not cheap; starting at around USD $1,500. In order to be successful in a claim, one of the criteria is that the typosquat domain must be shown to have been registered in bad faith.

For Australian domain name owners, there is less of a risk of typosquatting in the .au name space due to restrictions on the registration of .au names.

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