Beware of Domain Name Registration Scams

duboffThe weak economy appears to bring out the worst in some people, and scammers are becoming more aggressive. In the last few weeks, several clients have contacted us with questions about the URL scam that began a couple of years ago.

This scam involves an email from a purported domain registration center, usually – but not always – somewhere in Asia. You will receive an email that says something like: “We are a Network Service Company which is the domain name registration center in [China or some other country]. We have received an application from [name of company] that they are registering the URL “[your trademark] as their domain name. After auditing, we found the trademark has been used by your company. It is our duty to notice you, so I am sending you this email to check. We can keep the domain names safe for you, but our audit period is limited. Please let the responsible officer contact us as soon as possible.”

If you respond, the alleged registration center will try to get you to provide your credit card number, supposedly to cover the registration fee for the URL(s) at issue.

A similar scam involves notification from a company which has a name sounding very official advising the recipient of some issue with a trademark the recipient owns or has applied for. The companies doing this are merely trolling for work, and the prices they quote are generally too high.

There have also been communications from scammers regarding business registrations that make misleading statements and request exorbitant fees to assist with registrations and renewals.

An article we wrote that was published in the Oregon State Bar Bulletin describes some of the scams targeting individuals and business owners:

http://www.osbar.org/publications/bulletin/08nov/tips.html

Please feel free to contact us if you have any concerns that a communication you receive may be a scam.


Peer Review and Interface

Editorial by Jeffrey Barlow

Our Feature article in this issue of Interface is James Kundart, Yu-Chi Tai, John R. Hayes, and James Sheedy, “Word Recognition and the Accommodative Response to Desktop Versus Handheld Video Displays (Handheld Study #2)”

We are pleased to publish it as a fully peer-reviewed submission. We write here to explain the significance of peer review, particularly for an e-journal such as ours.

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DuBoff Law Group: Is Someone Copying Your Website or Other Copyrighted Material?

duboffClients often come to us after having discovered a website that is very similar to theirs. Sometimes the offending website is a complete copy of the website, but other times only certain elements have been copied and other times the similarities are merely coincidental. The copyright law requires the copyright owner to establish that the work in question is protected by copyright, that the alleged infringer had access to the copyrighted work and that the copy is substantially similar to the protected work.

A recent case, Tri-Marketing, Inc. v. Mainstream Marketing Services, Inc., addresses the issue of substantial similarity. Tri-Marketing and Mainstream are both telemarketing companies that specialize in generating leads for insurance companies. Tri-Marketing claimed that Mainstream’s website infringed Tri-Marketing’s website and sued for copyright infringement. Mainstream argued that its site was not “substantially similar” to that of Tri-Marketing. The court agreed with Mainstream, holding that while the two websites had the same type of content and ideas, the websites expressed that content and those ideas differently. The judge pointed out that since both websites involved the insurance leads business, there would, of necessity, be similarity in terminology and the content covered, noting that the only similarities between the two sites consisted of noncopyrightable ideas and standard language.

While this particular case involves websites, the same analysis applies to any copyright infringement claim. Ideas are not protectable by copyright; it is only the particular way an idea is expressed that can be copyrighted and the mere fact that two works are substantially similar does not, in and of itself, establish infringement.

Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions about copyright infringement or about registering your copyrights.

Copyright and Trademarks

Leonard Duboff and Christy King, The DuBoff Law Group, LLC.

Editor’s Statement: Because our Legal Editor and Berglund Center Board Member Leonard DuBoff is an internationally recognized specialist in Intellectual Property Rights, he sends us more material than we can really mention in our “Announcements” in any one issue. For this issue, we have gone back through recent submissions and assembled some of those which seem particularly relevant and timely for those interested in the impact of the Internet. Here are those relevant to two very important issues for content providers, Copyright and Trademarks.

Contents:

TRADEMARKS

Accuracy in Trademark Registrations is Critical. We recently advised you about the importance of conducting regular intellectual property audits. As part of this audit, you should carefully review all of your trademark applications and existing registrations to be sure that there are no mistakes in the description of goods or services.

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Duboff Law Group: Does Your Company Have a Written Policy About Online Endorsements?

DuBoff ImageOur Legal Editor and Berglund Board member Leonard DuBoff has provided useful information concerning on line endorsements.

Employers may be liable for online reviews created by their employees pursuant to Federal Trade Commission (FTC) guidelines that took effect last December. These FTC guidelines require bloggers and other online reviewers to “disclose material connections” between the reviewer and the company selling the product or service being reviewed. For instance, an employee of your company who comments about one of your company’s products on Facebook must disclose that he or she is an employee of your company.

The FTC has indicated that it is likely to take action against not only companies that encourage their employees to violate these guidelines, but also against companies who do not establish and maintain appropriate policies to help prevent these types of violations from occurring.

It is, therefore, important that your company include an appropriate policy in its employee handbook. If your company does not yet have an employee handbook, you should send an email or memo to your employees addressing this issue, either by prohibiting your employees from making any online postings about your company’s products or services without written approval of a manager, or by requiring employees to disclose their relationship with your company and otherwise fully comply with all applicable laws in connection with such postings.

For the web site of the Duboff Law Group please go to:http://www.dubofflaw.com/

Are Your Works Fully Protected by Copyright?

duboffWhile you probably know that “original works of authorship fixed in any tangible medium of expression,” including art, music, literature, and software, are automatically protected by copyright, you may not know that you will need to follow some formalities in order to effectively enforce your copyrights.

First, although you may have heard that the law no longer requires you to use a copyright notice on your work in order to be protected by copyright, this statement is misleading. Someone who copies a work in good faith, believing that it is not protected by copyright because it lacks a copyright notice, may be considered an innocent infringer. An innocent infringer will likely not be held liable for significant damages and may even be permitted to continue copying. You should, therefore, include a copyright notice: © [Name of Copyright Owner] [Year of First Publication]

Further, though registration is not required for copyright protection, it is required for filing a copyright infringement lawsuit. In addition, there are more remedies available for the infringement of a promptly registered copyright.

Normally, the remedies for copyright infringement are the recovery of actual damages (if they can be established) and court orders requiring all infringing copies to be destroyed and prohibiting future copying. If, however, the copyright in the work was registered before the infringement occurred, the copyright owner has the option of being awarded statutory damages rather than actual damages. This is important because in many cases actual damages are difficult, if not impossible, to prove. Statutory damages are no less than $750 and no more than $30,000, though if it can be established that the infringement was willful, they may be as high as $150,000, and damages for an innocent infringer may be as low as $200.

Note that if you register a work within three months of the date of first publication, the registration will be retroactive to the date of first publication, so it is a good idea to register all of your copyrights within three months of publication.

Rather than registering each piece individually, you may be able to cluster a number of works under a single application in order to save filing fees. The rules on which works may be combined under a single application are technical and must be strictly adhered to.

Though you may file your application conventionally through the mail, the Copyright Office now allows for online registration, which is faster and less expensive.

Only by registering your copyright and applying an appropriate copyright notice on your work can you rely on receiving the full protection of the copyright laws. Please let us know if you have any questions about protecting your copyrights or if you need assistance registering your copyrights.

For the web site of the Duboff Law Group please go to:http://www.dubofflaw.com/