List Firm Moves to End Typo Squatter Flap

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Looking for the home page of PCS List & Information Technologies? As of last week, typing in "PCSLists.com" landed you on the home page of Act One Mailing List Services Inc.


While online recently, an employee of PCS mistakenly typed an "s" onto the end of its name, www.pcslist.com, and arrived at the home page of its competitor. What's more, 10 other competing list firms were in the same boat, according to the company responsible for the flap.


PCS filed a cease-and-desist letter last week demanding that Act One deactivate the address. Act One president/CEO Steven M. Cushinsky said the first time he had heard about the situation was May 25, when he received a similar letter from MSGi. Cushinsky claims a former employee of his firm registered the domain names and linked them to the Act One Web site in January.


"I don't know why [he] did it. I haven't called the person. He no longer works here -- and all I know is the best thing I can so as the owner of this company is to release those names, and that's been taken care of."


Of 67 domain names registered by this former employee, 11 were found to be similar to the domain names of competitors in the list industry, Cushinsky said, though he would not name the companies. DM News has confirmed five others: Edith Roman Associates Inc., Fred Woolf List Co. Inc., Lighthouse List Co., SRDS and Marketing Information Network (mIn).


The practice of setting up camp on the Internet under a domain name that is similar to an existing domain is called typo squatting, according to Marc Roth, an Internet marketing attorney at Brown Raysman Millstein Felder & Steiner LLP, New York.


"The anti cyber-squatting law prohibits a company from using or registering a domain name that is intended to confuse consumers," Roth said. "If several entities can demonstrate that one common entity registered domains all of which are similar to actual companies in the same industry and the site that they created provides the same product or service as those entities I would think you have a pretty good case for mal-intent."


Act One said it issued faxes and e-mails to the affected firms beginning last Thursday.


The message, signed by Cushinsky said, "Please be advised that a former employee of our company purchased certain domain names that may appear similar to some of our industry competitors. The situation seems to be the aggressive marketing tactics of an overzealous former employee. We have notified the necessary authorities of the occurrence and have authorized them to release those certain domain names back into circulation. We took care of the matter as soon as we became aware and apologize for any negative feelings generated because of it."


Cushinsky said he also sent 4,000 e-mail s explaining the situation to his clients, other list companies and people in the industry. However, at least one firm involved is not satisfied with Act One's actions.


"My belief is that a corporation such as Act One between January and June would have some idea that something like this was happening," said Ann Guyer Healy, CEO of PCS List & Information Technologies, Peabody, MA. "I also think that they are responsible for the act of a former employee."


PCS said it intends to sue for damages, including lost business and legal fees.


"If someone is looking for lists and they are looking for us and they go into the Act One site, it's entirely possible that they would go ahead and order what they need thinking that connected or the same," she said.


Another list firm is pleased with Act One's handling of the situation and believes that it was all just an unfortunate situation.


"I am satisfied with the steps Act One has taken and I am confident that it will be rectified," said Steve Roberts, president of Edith Roman Associates Inc., Pearl River, NY. "This is really a people industry, and everyone knows everyone else and we're all involved in 'coopertition.' We compete but we also cooperate with each other."


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