Google Hit With Typosquatting Class Action

Asked to stop funding with AdSense

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Harvard Business School professor Benjamin Edelman believes Google is profiting from and encouraging typosquatting by placing ads on trademark infringing made-for-AdSense websites. As co-counsel in a class action suit, Edelman suggests Google could be making money from a million domains or more.

Typosquatting is the practice of registering a domain that is an errant version of a popular website in order to gain traffic and ad clicks from people who misspell or mistype their intended domain. For example, one might type bankofamrica.com instead of bankofamerica.com. Typosquatting has been illegal in the States since 1999, and is considered trademark infringement in most countries.

In a recent report for McAfee, Edelman said more than 80,000 typosquatting domains for the top 2,000 websites, and singled out Google as the largest ad network contributing to the viability of these sites.

“The largest network in this space is Google, whose AdSense for Domains product and other domain-syndication products serve ads on more than 80 percent of the typosquatting sites recently uncovered by
SiteAdvisor technology,” Edelman wrote.

In that same report, freecreditreport.com was the most targeted, with 742 typosquatting domains registered, followed by cartoonnetwork.com (kids’ sites are often targeted) with 327, youtube.com with 320, craigslist.org with 318, and Google’s own blogspot.com with 276.

Google Hit With Typosquatting Class Action

In an article for The Harvard Crimson, Edelman low-ball estimated a million sites earning $25 per year for the owners, meaning Google was likely charging between $32-$50, equaling at least $32 million annual gross for Google. Edelman believes it could be more (it could also be less, though).

Because of the range of companies indicated with possible trademark infringement cases, the suit has been filed as a class action. “We believe class action adjudication is the most efficient way to resolve these companies’ complaints,” Edelman said in The Crimson. “It would be unreasonably complicated, costly, and time-consuming for all trademark holders to sue separately.”

If Google were to abandon the typosquatting industry, he argues, it could be far less of a problem. In a standard statement to the press, Google has said the lawsuit’s claims are “baseless” and that the company would fight the suit vigorously.

If all true, it’s interesting Google would be so lax in dealing with typosquatting domainers. For all the company’s noble efforts to fight other shady practices like malware—most definitely a concern with squatters—various link spam techniques (and paid links certainly), and deceptive marketing tactics, aiding and profiting from typosquatting would be a definite stain on the company’s overall reputation.  

Google Hit With Typosquatting Class Action
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  • Guest

    Why should google enforce domain name registrations? That’s just plain silly!

    Shouldn’t typosquatting enforcement start with the domain name registrars?

    Lets not forget they also make a tidy sum by allowing users to register these

    law breaking names!

  • http://www.prweb.com/releases/2008/09/prweb1366424.htm Peter Monroe

    I think that google should be held responsible for supporting these types of websites.  It is just wrong, and google has shown that they are willing to support these guys.

  • http://www.thelostagency.com Dave

    What is AdSense for domains?

    AdSense® for domains allows domain name registrars and large domain name holders to unlock the value in their parked page inventory. AdSense for domains delivers targeted, conceptually related advertisements to parked domain pages by using Google’s semantic technology to analyze and understand the meaning of the domain names. Our program uses ads from the Google AdWords™ network, which is comprised of thousands of advertisers worldwide and is growing larger everyday. Google AdSense for domains targets web sites in over 25 languages, and has fully localized segmentation technology in over 10 languages.

  • http://familylawlawyersflorida.com/ Marc

    Typosquatting is such an unethical practice in my opinion. 


    Recently while searching for educational online games for kids, I mispelled cartoonnetwork.com and ended up at an adult site.  I was only one letter off, but that was all it took.  I infomed cartoon network about the specific misspelled url that they should address, but i think they dont even have the resources to go after all the misspellings that go to offensive sites. 

    Seems to me google will do anything to increase the profit margins on their adsense revenue.  The value of PPC goes down everytime something like this is done.  The advertiser pays more for useless clicks and the searcher is flooded by spam sites that dont provide the info they need. 


  • http://www.nicnac.net Nicnac

    We use Google and Yahoo pay per click programs but only because we pretty much have to. I don’t know about typosquatting but I do know that Google and Yohho profit GREATLY from pay per click sales to sites that only supply LINKS to the product keyword. It’s not enough that if a person does a search for an item that Ebay and Amazon show up in the pay per click listings but don’t actually SELL the item. Websites that buy up expired domains and links sites like Kaboodle, looksmart, Bizrate, Shopzilla and a thousand more drive up pay per click prices for advertisers of any particular keyword and they don’t even sell the product. In some cases these "sponsored results" are OTHER PAY PER CLICK SITES!!!!

    I’m sorry but that’s dirty pool. If anybody knows of a class action suit regarding these practices, let me know, I’m in.


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