Forms of Online Brand Abuse: Damaging Online Businesses

Type in "yahooka" instead of "yahoo" on the net and you got info on marijuana. Unethical liberties taken with brand names can cause problems!

Yahoo is one of the most popular destinations on the Web. However, type in “yahooka” instead of “yahoo” as part of the URL and you end up at a site that provides information and links about marijuana on the Internet. Ever think about visiting the official Web site of the White House? If you type in .com instead of .gov, you’ll end up at a pornography site.

Domain name abuse is just one form of brand abuse that harms the reputations of retailers and the shopping experiences of consumers. In response to the development of the Yahooka site, Yahoo promptly drafted a cease and desist letter.

“Your use of Yahooka and ‘yahooka.com,’ a close variation of our client’s Yahoo mark and ‘yahoo.com’ domain name, is likely to cause the public to mistakenly believe that this site is connected with, sponsored by, or approved in some way by Yahoo, therefore constituting actionable dilution under state and federal law,” the letter from Yahoo’s attorneys states.

According to Cyveillance [http://www.cyveillance.com], an Internet company that develops technology to assist e-commerce sites in policing the Web for brand abuse, unauthorized use of logos and images is the number one form of online brand abuse,

Imagine you are surfing the Net and come across the Fuzzy Wuzzy Toy Site. A Toys R Us logo, or an extremely similar one, appears on the site. Maybe the site is affiliated with Toys R Us or maybe it’s the stuffed animal section of the Toys R Us Web site?

In addition to misleading consumers, most logo-stealing Web sites and companies lack the high standards and ethics of established companies. Consumers end up with inferior products and services and are left frustrated and upset.

After two years of searching the Net and researching brand abuse, Cyveillance has compiled a top-10 list of the most frequent forms of online brand abuse:

  1. Unauthorized use of logos and images.
  2. Use of hidden and visible text.
  3. Unauthorized use of a company’s name or product in meta-tags.
  4. Software, music or video piracy.
  5. Unauthorized distribution of sale of consumer goods.
  6. Framing another site’s content.
  7. Use of company’s name on competitor’s site.
  8. Use of logos or images in pornographic context.
  9. Domain name abuse and parody sites.
  10. Gripe sites and negative newsgroup postings.

“Over the past two years, we have seen a growing proliferation of these types of brand abuses on the Internet,” said Brandy Thomas, CEO and Chairman of Cyveillance. “Site designers and owners have become more creative in luring consumers to their sites by using established household brands names in metatags or by capitalizing on competitors’ names by referencing them, framing or linking to them right in their sites.”

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