Alf Temme has had to face a number of trademark-infringement and cybersquatting actions brought against him mostly in relation to work on his start-up company Domain Name Consolidation Service (DNCS). In his July 3rd guest-post on the SeattlePI, Temme wrote to inform audiences about DNCS, typo-squatting, and his version of the cyber-squatting suits that he’s faced while attempting to turn DNCS into a viable company.
DNCS was a Web-address consulting firm started by Temme with the aim of advising large corporations about what kinds of URLs they should register to both protect their brand and to avoid consumer confusion and dissatisfaction. By pre-registering domains, DNCS aimed to save these companies large amounts of money they’d likely have to spend down the road in costly litigation to retrieve domains which they should already have owned.
What Temme did was to compile a list of domain addresses he thought these large corporations should register and then he would show a smaller list (about 50% of the domains he thought the company needed to procure) to whomever he could pitch his business idea to within the corporation in the hopes they would hire DNCS for consultation on which domains to register.
However, even in the earliest stages of DNCS, Temme ran into problems. Potential clients took the domain name suggestion list, registered those domains themselves, and then wanted nothing further to do with Temme. Later, when Temme began pre-registering some of these domains before showing any list to a potential, he ran into real problems. Potential customers treated him as a cyber-criminal instead of valuing his DNCS company as a consulting service. Temme writes that he approached companies only in good faith and that;
“I thought it would behoove companies to avoid expensive and time-consuming efforts years later to obtain domain names from others who, by then, would likely have registered those domains in faraway countries, where they would be difficult to obtain… It seemed a very practical idea to save all these large corporations a lot of money and grief later.”
The money and grief he’s referring to is shed when these same corporations rely on filing lawsuits to get domain names similar to their brand or trademark back from cybersquatters and typosquatters. Temme writes that;
“My consulting service was a similar idea to doing preventative exercise rather than allowing illness to develop and having to spend far more money and time to restore health.”
There are two primary methods for retrieving a domain name that is confusingly similar to your trademark;
The ACPA may be used against people who had bad faith intent to profit from a domain name and who registered, used or trafficked in a domain name; that is identical, confusingly similar, or dilutive of certain trademarks. It provides fines between $1,000 and $100,000 per infringing domain name for which the cybersquatter is found liable and also a lawsuit under the ACPA can force the bad-faith registrant to transfer the domain name to the rightful trademark owner.
The UDRP allows for a cheaper and more efficient means for resolving cybersquatting disputes. A brand / trademark / or domain-name owner may bring a UDRP action if she in good faith believes that someone is cyber squatting on a domain name that rightfully should be hers. To succeed in a UDRP challenge the complainant must demonstrate three things;
1. That the domain name is either identical or confusingly similar to a trademark or service mark in which the complainant has rights,
2. The domain name registrant does not have any rights or legitimate business interests in the domain name, and
3. The registrant registered the domain name and is using it in bad faith
Temme’s brief history of squaring off against alleged intellectual property violations;
Temme compiled his list of suggested domain names for Alaska Airline to register; including typo-domains and some like flytobaja.com, flytoalaska.com, flytoacapulco.com, and some top level .net and .org domains he thinks Alaska Airline should have registered along .com addresses it already owned. After Temme approached the company, he writes;
“The airline’s marketing department wouldn’t hear my proposal; I was turned over to Alaska’s legal department, which deals with intellectual property issues. My list of domains was immediately stolen and registered by Alaska Airlines. They could easily do that because I registered most of these domains in violation of the two laws, and Alaska Airlines had trademark and intellectual property rights to most of them.
And guess what, that resulted in my first arbitration case against me. No consulting service sign-up. So I scratched it up to misunderstanding. (I still own those flytoalaska.com and other “fly to” domains because the airline could not lay claim to those.)”
Air France arbitration,
The next ICANN arbitration case Temme ran into was in 2004 Air France. He again registered a number of typo-domains and others including flytoparis.com. Temme’s DNCS consulting offer was again rejected and the result was a lose-lose arbitration proceeding for Temme brought under ICANN’s UDRP.
Temme had also registered computer-related domains, examples including bestcomputeranimation.com and bestcomputergraphics.com, and seven typo-domains which he had attempted to turn over to Dell after giving up on DNCS as a viable company.
Alf Temme posted about the Dell v. Temme dispute at http://www.domainnamesquatting.com/, that post is still live and shows that the Dell dispute was over these seven disputed domain names in a ‘good but illfated business idea he (Temme) had’. The typo-squatted domains which ended up being retrieved by Dell in the proceeding are; d3ell.com, de3ll.com, d4ell.com, de4ll.com, dedll.com, derll.com, dxell.com
Most recently, Temme writes that he had registered 26 Microsoft typo-domains during his time trying to make DNCS consulting work out. He notes that;
“Without sending me a demand letter first, Microsoft filed suit in March, demanding the 24 domains and up to $2.4 million – plus legal costs – in damages. Simultaneously, I received an offer from Microsoft to settle the case for $500,000.”
Temme points out that he has returned all 26 Microsoft typo-squatted domains (the 24 requested and 2 others he found in his portfolio) but the case remains still pending.
Temme argues he is creating no more consumer confusion than Microsoft is with Bing;
In his SeattlePI guest-post, Temme goes onto argue in relation to the Microsoft suit that;
“In my case, misspelled hotmail.com domains redirected to my fastexercise.com website, where I sell my Romfab ROM exercise machine. Microsoft correctly alleges in its lawsuit that I created such confusion and annoyance for people who intended to go to hotmail.com but wound up at fastexercise.com.
Ironically, Microsoft does the same by redirecting misspelled Hotmail domains, including my old ones, to Bing – equally annoying and confusing to the users who intended to go to hotmail.com.
Their accusing me of confusing Hotmail users is like the pot calling the kettle black.”
Microsoft’s view on the Microsoft v. Temme dispute can be found on the Microsoft Blog here.
The 26 Microsoft owned trademark ‘Hotmail’ typo-squatted domains:
Despite his earnest arguments, positive criticism of Temme’s Web-activities is hard to find. Here are a few less than endearing comments left on Temme’s guest-post;
unregistered user #545158, 7/3/2010 8:55 a.m.,
So he loses his credibility when he decides that the best way to get them to pay for his “services” is to buy, own and control the domain names he thinks they should have purchased.
It’s called blackmail. When Italian gentlemen do it to local businesses, it’s called protection.
unregistered user #545181, 7/3/2010 10:05 a.m.,
is “consulting” a euphemism for “extortion”?
checkReality, user #545204 7/3/2010 11:11 a.m.,
Grade for defense of your reputation: FAIL.
However, there is some positive feedback;
unregistered user #545208 7/3/2010 11:18 a.m.,
He says he always willingly turned over the domains if asked. I think you guys are being too hard on him. If his intention was exortion, he would not have been willing to hand over the domains for no cost.
Is Alf Temme a good-faith entrepreneur or a cyber-squatting Web-extortionist?
Whether or not you agree with Temme’s business model of cyber-squatting and typo-squatting on unregistered domain names and then attempting to resell them packed with his DNCS consulting service, or simply redirecting traffic on these domain names to his http://www.fastexercise.com/ ROM exercise machine site, his activities have certainly put him in the crossfire of some of the heavyweights in the intellectual property world.