Squatters and trolls (part 2)

By Peter Shackleton and Alex Tame (Founder, Tame IP)

 

You’ve spent time planning and determining what digital assets and IP you require. The next step is just to go get it, right? Wrong. Brands and individuals alike underestimate how much of a digital footprint (or, moreover, an easily traceable footprint), they leave through undertaking simple actions such as registering a domain name or submitting a trademark or patent application.

 

At NetNames, we are asked every week to help with scenarios in which brands are trying to get hold of assets for a new venture, but have created so much awareness about their forthcoming plans the assets are either no longer available or too expensive for the project.

 

The registration of digital assets, such as domain names, will follow the trends in digital chat and interest – people will jump on the band wagon of anything they believe is popular, desirable and, as a consequence, may be of value. Take two high-profile examples:

 

  • after Donald Trump became the presumptive nominee for the Republican party, the next 12 hours saw several hundred domain registrations relating to Trump, from the obvious DonaldTrumpRepublicans.com to the ridiculous SweetJesusiHateDonaldTrump.com, as well as predictions about his potential vice presidential candidates; eg TrumpShelby.com

 

  • in August 2015, when Google announced its new parent company ‘Alphabet’, it also announced that it would be using the domain name abc.xyz as its primary URL. In the 24-hour period that followed that announcement, there were in excess of 6,000 dotXYZ registrations (a massive number at the time), with a large proportion of those including either reference to ‘abc’ or ‘alphabet’.

 

What we saw was, on an enhanced scale, what happens on a daily basis as people become aware of what brands are thinking and trying to guess what they would potentially have a requirement for.

 

We see a similar dynamic with patents. Technical inventions must be kept secret until they’ve been filed at the patent office and the all-important priority date has been assigned. This date is critical as any disputes or queries would always refer back to this date to determine who was the first to file. If information about the technical invention has been publicly disclosed before filing, such as in a blog or meeting, the patent could been deemed invalid. Moreover, after filing, the patent office will not publish the invention for 18 months, and this provides the patent owner with a period of time to continue developing the technology (and filing more patent applications) before competitors and other entities are able to discern what they’ve been up to.

To complicate matters even further, the titles given to patent applications are invariably vague – such as ‘System and method for authorization of location services (US6138003)’. Navigating the world of patents in preparation for a product launch is therefore a tricky business and requires expert assistance to ensure you understand the landscape.

Furthermore, as mentioned in our previous IP blog, you may find patent trolls lurking under the bridge; watching technology develop and filing or acquiring patents that can be used to extract revenue from the ecosystem. In many cases, these trolls will sit and watch as the industry grows before pouncing when the value of the technology is potentially at its most lucrative.

 

Pic blog IP right part 3 

As I have two young children, my film references are no longer quite as high brow as they once were, so bear with me… In Monsters Inc, the undercover secretary Roz tells Mike Wazowski “I'm watching you, Wazowski. Always watching. Always.”

The same could be said for anything we do online – especially where brands are concerned. Someone (maybe even Roz) is always watching and looking for opportunities to take advantage or disrupt. Having an aligned plan with the relevant stakeholders, and controlling the release of information into the public domain, creates a far greater likelihood that you will be able to obtain the digital assets you require with minimum fuss and minimum cost.