Cybersquatting has become rampant in recent years.
There’s a growing number of cases of doppelgangers trying to abduct assets of legitimate brands. One such group decided to target our cutting-edge Amazon Advertising automation platform Zon.Tools.
Together with our brand, our customers were exposed to various malicious activities.
The good news is cybersquatters didn’t have it their way. We filed a lawsuit, which resulted in the takeover of the zontools.com domain.
Here’s how the case unraveled and what we can learn from it.
Game of Deception
It all started back in 2018, with (what appeared to be) a regular order of our services
At first, nothing seemed suspicious. We are automation and management solution for Amazon Sponsored Products. We aid many sellers in the sponsored product campaign management process.
Little we suspected the intention of the ‘customer’ was never to use our service. Instead, it joined our private Facebook group and obtained proprietary information. This information was used to hijack our branding.
Namely, the impostor registered the zontools.com domain in July 2018.
We couldn’t obtain this domain when we incorporated Zon Tools LLC in 2017 because that domain was registered in 2013 and only expired in 2018. At that time, we chose to go with zon.tools.
Cybersquatters obviously aware of this because they got the disputed domain as soon as it was available.
This decoy served as a means of blackmailing both Zon Tools LLC and swindling its customers. Some of them were lured into paying for black hat services the infringer were offering.
The Legal Battle
We knew we have to act swiftly.
In February this year, we filed an in rem lawsuit (in California) against the domain name. We rightfully claimed the defendant engaged in cybersquatting and trademark infringement.
In a subsequent case, it was proven the other party pretended to be a user. It misused our brand assets and tried to drive traffic to fake services. On top of all that, it attempted to extort money for a domain name transfer.
These activities were in violation of the Anti-Cybersquatting Consumer Protection Act. They also posed a breach of Amazon Terms of Service.
The defendant didn’t respond to the lawsuit at all. In fact, it filed a default soon afterward. Finally, on April 22, we managed to reach common ground.
This mutual understanding resulted in the Settlement Agreement. The document ensured our ownership over zontools.com domain. Yes, it means cybersquatters have been defeated in court!
Where We Stand Moving Forward
The law was on our side and the schemers couldn’t hope to prove otherwise.
Emulating brand assets is fairly easy to accomplish. Replicating our state-of-the-art automation and management system is a different ballgame entirely. It’s precisely where cybersquatters’ ploy came short.
This kind of conclusion is satisfactory, yet must draw valuable lessons for the future.
First off, where the cybersquatters we faced fizzled others could succeed. Registering a TLD without owning a matching domain is always risky. It opens the floodgates for crooks to deploy their cunning tactics.
Secondly, even a flawed cybersquatting attempt causes harm. Given enough time, it tarnishes the brand reputation and undermines consumer trust.
In the case aftermath, we were indeed forced to do some damage control. But, we emerge even stronger, knowing justice has been served.
Time to Stomp on Cybersquatting
Our recent woes are indicative of dire risks of lurking in the digital world.
The profit one can gain form cybersquatting is immense. This attracts swarms of criminals, who devise highly sophisticated and calculated ploys.
The case we won was all a disheartening affair, but let’s end on a positive note here.
We encourage other companies to take the necessary precautions. It’s the only way to stop similar attempts in their tracks. Prevention is the best cure there is.
As for our customers, they can have peace of mind. We protected our brand and will continue to do so.
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Also published on Medium.