Westfield recently started receiving "alerts" about internet domain registrations from a company in Asia. This company claims to have received an application for internet domains that are close to Westfield’s main domain, westfieldinsurance.com, but carry different suffixes such as westfieldinsurance.net.cn, westfieldinsurance.hk or westfieldinsurance.asia. The email claims that the company "discovered" that the brand keyword matched our name and trademark and asks someone to contact them "before we finish the registration" for the other company.

On the Internet, the domain naming system treats every combination of domains as a unique destination. Owning example.com gives you no special rights to example.org. And while you may be able to make a case for trademark infringement, the domain naming system has a strong bias in favor of "first-come, first-served." If a domain name is important to your brand, you need to act to protect it.

If you’re not already monitoring internet domain registrations that are similar to your trademark and business, you really should start. There are several good monitoring services out there, some that will send daily alerts for free. Remember, however, that you can’t commandeer every possible variation of your domain – there are just too many possibilities. Get the domains that you think are most important and monitor the rest.

The message from the Asian company, however, is a scam. We have traced two different types of these messages so far. In the first case, it was a straightforward con for a credit card number. In the second case, it was an actual domain registrar using questionable tactics to generate business. In both cases, we investigated the company – a Google search on some keywords from the email will often return examples of others who have run into the same con – and decided not to respond to their phishing attempt.

If someone registers a domain name similar to yours, look at the domain registration. (There are several excellent lookup tools on the web. I tend to use whois.domaintools.com). If the other person registering the domain appears to be a legitimate business that just happens to have a similar name to yours, don’t worry too much about it. We regularly bump into the the Westfield Group that owns Westfield Shoppingtown Malls (an Australian firm). We also know about domains registered to a car repair shop on a Westfield Road in Indiana. There’s no connection and no evidence of fraud – and they got to the domain first. As long as they keep the domain out of the phishers’ hands, I can live with that. I also don’t worry too much about the domain resellers who buy the domain name then “park” it with some generic ads. (Here is an example.) As long as there’s no evidence of misuse and no obvious confusion with my brand, I’m willing to let most of those sit.

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