Heinz Provides Lesson on Brand Protection After Letting Competition Domain Lapse

By David Goldstein


Brand protection online is, as we all know, very important. And there are many facets to protecting one’s brand. One that came up in the press in the last week to be aware of was an issue with registering a domain name for a short period of time and letting it lapse when a promotion, or in this case a competition, has ended.

The German arm of the global food giant Heinz ran a promotion “Sag’s Mit Heinz” (Say it with Heinz) from 2012 to 2014. On each bottle of tomato ketchup was a QR Code that linked to a website with the domain name sagsmitheinz.de.

Sometime after the competition ended Heinz let the domain name lapse and it was quickly snapped up by a German company running adult website, who promptly put up a porn website although the website has now been taken down.

The problem was discovered by a German man, Daniel Korell, who contacted Heinz through their Heinz Tomato Ketchup Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10206942549392802&set=o.119821703989&type=1. Heinz responded that as the bottle was old they couldn’t control what was displayed on the page.

Korell seemed a little more au fait with the issues involved than Heinz. He responded telling Heinz that even though the competition was finished, it was still in many households. And that it doesn’t cost the earth to register a dotDE domain. He concluded saying it was “just plain embarrassing.”

Heinz then seemed to grasp this idea and as a result have offered him a personalised bottle of their tomato ketchup!

It’s a reminder for those that deliberately let a domain name lapse that they need to think about the consequences of the domain name getting into a competitor’s hands or into the hands of a registrant that could be “just plain embarrassing”.

Luckily for Korell, he commented that he’ll probably suffer no permanent damage!