08 April 2022

Typosquatting is the deliberate use of incorrect spelling to mislead people. This peculiar-sounding practice is actually very common. It is pretty easy to spot when it is used on ‘designer’ clothing, such as Calvim Klain underwear or Abibas sneakers, but notoriously inconspicuous when used in misleading domain names.

“Who on earth is fooled by misspelled domain names? l would never fall for a trick like that”, you may think. But did you spot that the capital I in the previous sentence is actually a lower case L? There are many more such examples. In an internet browser’s address bar, the two vs in vv resemble a w, a zero looks like the letter o, and it is very easy to read rn as an m. Typos such as ABNArnro.nl and lnstagrarn.net are not immediately apparent in the small, compact font used in browsers. This is a stealthy form of fraud.

It has always taken a considerable amount of work to protect your trademark, but now trademark owners also have to be on the look-out for camouflaged versions of their trademark, such as lnstagrarn.net.

Sufficiently recognisable

The domain name lnstagrarn.net (LNSTAGRARN) is probably not the first thing you come across when searching for ‘instagram’, but when Instagram’s trademark attorneys discovered it they took immediate action. They submitted a complaint to the Arbitration and Mediation Center of the World Intellectual Property Office (WIPO), won their case and acquired ownership of the domain name.

The decision in the lnstagrarn.net case shows that a domain name with a ‘common, obvious, or intentional misspelling of a trademark’ can be confusingly similar to that trademark if it contains ‘sufficiently recognisable aspects’ thereof. Experience has taught us that such spelling mistakes are usually intended to confuse users, and it is therefore likely that they are being used in bad faith. As this was patently obvious in this particular case, the domain name had to be handed over to Instagram.

Special dispute resolution procedure

A court case often involves a great deal of time and money, but almost anyone can quite easily submit a claim to the WIPO regarding a domain name that constitutes an infringement or which has been registered in bad faith. Nearly all generic top-level domain names (.com, .org, .biz) and country codes (.nl, .be) are covered by these dispute settlement regulations.

Do you have any questions about trademark protection, domain name registrations or infringement proceedings? Our trademark attorneys will be happy to help you.



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