Companies that let their domain names expire are finding they are being re-registered by e-shops marketing trademark infringing, or counterfeit, goods. The study by the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO), through the European Observatory on Infringements of Intellectual Property Rights, was on online business models used to infringe intellectual property rights. The study found when domain names were available for re-registration the entities operating the e-shops would systematically re-register the domain names and shortly after set up e-shops marketing goods suspected of infringing upon the trademarks of others. It was found that the prior use of the domain names was completely unrelated to the goods being marketed on the suspected e-shops. There were examples of domain names previously used by politicians, foreign embassies, commercial businesses and many other domain name registrants.
An analysis of the 27,970 e-shops in the study identified a number of patterns including shoes were the product category most affected, accounting for two-thirds (67.5%) of the suspected e-shops and then clothes, accounting for 20.6%, while 94.6% of the detected suspected e-shops used the same specific e-commerce software.
Additionally, 40.78 % of the detected suspected e-shops in Sweden and the United Kingdom were registered through the same registrar, 21.3 % of all the e-shops used the same nameserver and a quarter (25.9%) of the suspected e-shops had the hosting provider located in Turkey, 19.3 % in the Netherlands and 18.3 % in the United States.
Even if the domain name was previously used for the marketing of goods, the study found the current e-shops were marketing a different type of product at the time of analysis. The study examined 40 case studies that indicated the sole reason for re-registration of the domain names is to benefit from the popularity of the website that was previously identified by the domain name. The benefits would include search engine indexing, published reviews of services and/or products and links from other websites that have not yet taken the current use into consideration. The case studies also indicate a high degree of affiliation between the e-shops is likely. The research seems to indicate that what on the surface seems like thousands of unrelated e-shops are likely to be one or a few businesses marketing trade mark infringing goods to European consumers.