News,Social Media

The New Threat of Typosquatting (Misspelled Brands) in Social Media

14 Sep , 2010  

A recent tweet by Andrew Nystrom of Red Bull brought attention to a growing trend we’ve noticed in Social Media sites such as Twitter and Facebook — that of Typosquatting. Typosquatting is a form of brandjacking/cybersquatting in which someone registers the misspelling of a brand or trademark term in an attempt to capture traffic from a legitimate well-known entity. In the case of social networks, this is done by using the misspelling of a username, such as in Justin Bieber’s case. The real @justinbieber has 5.2 million followers, but a misspelled dupe account of @justinbeiber (the i and e transposed) with zero tweets already has over 16,000 followers.

Typosquatting on domain names is not a new practice on the internet; it was clearly identified as a threat as early as 1995 by the Federal Trademark Dilution Act and targeted directly in 1999 with the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act which “established a cause of action for registering, trafficking in, or using a domain name confusingly similar to, or dilutive of, a trademark or personal name.” Eventually ICANN also established the Uniform Domain-Name Dispute-Resolution Policy (UDRP) for further protection against domain name squatting.

Like defensive domain registrations to prevent cybersquatting, trademark owners should acquire a company name, any trademarks, and any other important intellectual property brands on all social network sites.
Traverse Legal, 9/21/09

While this helps protect trademark owners from issues with misspelled domain names, there isn’t really anything in place yet which protects them on social networks. This was evidenced as early as a year go by reports concerning name misspellings being bought and sold on Twitter, and not just as usernames, but by API names as well. It seems wherever a user can supply content on a social network, there is the possibility of that content’s true owner being misrepresented.
So what can trademark owners do to protect their brands? They can wait until after their name has been squatted and issue a cease and desist to each social network and try and recover it, or they can use a service like KnowEm to proactively register their mark on popular social networks. For purposes of full disclosure I will point out that I am a co-founder of KnowEm, and I am happy to stand behind our service as the first and foremost social networking trademark protection firm on the internet.

You don’t necessarily have to rush out and use a professional service to protect misspellings of your trademark on every social network, but at the least you should consider monitoring not only the usage of your brand or mark, but several misspellings as well. Typosquatting has been around since domains existed and there’s no reason to believe it will go away anytime soon, especially with the continuing popularity and growth of social networks.

This post has been republished from the KnowEm blog.

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4 Responses

  1. I must say, this does sound like a smart strategy in the short term. It’s a way to get traffic.

    But at the end of the day, if that traffic from typo-squatting does not convert, it’s not of much use.


  2. Simon says:

    Typosquatting is indeed a problem, and something larger operations must continue to deal with in the future.

    Twitter, for example, has not dealed with the thread properly, and mispellings of their website address can lead you to fraudulent sites, that target Twitter and have an extremely high Alexa rank, which only makes the problem worse.

    KnowEm is a great source for registering your brand online.

    Thanks for the article and the relevant sources you link to (no typosquatting there) ;-)

  3. I’ve recently noticed typosquatting social media accounts (on Facebook, Twitter and Google+) trying take advantage of my brand. So really appreciate the resources here!

  4. Bojan says:

    I don’t think that typosquatting is very useful because when people search for certain brand on the internet, they know what to expect on their page (their products, services …). When they see that they entered wrong page, they’ll just go away.

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