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Imagine my competitor is getting 1000s of views a day and is established in Google search engine.

I plan to launch my website in a weeks time but will have to work hard to get into google search results

If my competitor has the domain www.example.com , can I buy the domain www.example.co.uk and then redirect that to my website?

I figure some people may accidentally put .co.uk instead of .com

Would this me illegal in any way , or is it fair game as they haven't bought the domain, meaning I could possibly look to selling it to them?

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19  
Perhaps this is not the place for such a question. I would seek paid-for legal advice as opposed to the Webmasters stack exchange - we don't promote shady business practices on here, hence the negative response. – Daveth3Cat Mar 2 at 15:25
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try googling trademarks, pretending to be your competitors is explicitly illegal in nearly every country worldwide. Also this bad faith use of domain names is against the registry terms of use. – JamesRyan Mar 2 at 17:06
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Not sure what country you are in but I have never "accidentally" typed .co.uk instead of .com. Even if I did then I would immediately see that I am on the wrong website and swiftly hit that back button. This will actually hurt you in the Google rankings because your bounce rate will be through the roof. – MonkeyZeus Mar 2 at 20:37
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If you register an ICANN gTLD for this purpose, especially if you try to sell it, you would probably be in violation of the registration agreement, and would probably lose any dispute under the UDRP (icann.org/resources/pages/dndr-2012-02-25-en#udrp). Other TLDs may have similar policies. Also, if the domain is a trademark, you would probably be infringing it (as others have said). This may be different if it is a generic name. Also, to those customers who are not fooled, you would be showing yourself to be dishonest and probably not a company they want to do business with. – John B. Lambe Mar 3 at 0:24
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Its also an incredibly childish attempt at attracting traffic, and people will see it as such. if i go to example.co.uk instead of going to example.com and it directs me to somethingididntaskfor.org, the first thing i do is exit that page, and i probably will always have a bad impression of that company. This is schoolyard tactics, not fit for business. – James Trotter Mar 3 at 8:44
up vote 37 down vote accepted

I'm not sure of the term but it's similar to coming out with a soda and calling it Koka-Kola and hoping you can get away with it. You won't.

If you are going to compete, compete with superior products and service instead of trickery.

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9  
Why embark on a campaign that could cause a silly war with your competitor before you have got a foothold in search results. Doesn't make sense to me. – user29671 Mar 2 at 13:55
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@MatthewSmart "Surely there isnt anything illegal with taking a domain name and just leaving it sitting" See domain squatting – David Richerby Mar 2 at 19:53
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"it's similar to coming out with a soda and calling it Koka-Kola" No, it's completely different from that. It's like registering the phone number 1-800-COCACOLA in the hope that people will call you and order your products instead of Coke. – David Richerby Mar 2 at 19:59
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The legal term is "trademark infringement": using someone else's identifying marks in a way likely to cause confusion. – Mark Mar 2 at 22:22
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@MatthewSmart Pardon me for being blunt, but given your proclivity to toe the line with dishonesty, I would actively avoid doing any business with you. From any and all of your ideas in this question, I would conclude that you are willing to stoop as low as you can without getting caught to make a buck. How am I supposed to trust someone who thinks that way? +1 to this answer. – jpmc26 Mar 3 at 1:02

First, as already pointed out, it's trickery and unlikely to serve you well.

Someone typing in a specific domain name knows what site they want, and it isn't yours; how do you suppose they'll react to being duped? I certainly can't imagine it'll be a positive reflection on your business.

And do enough people actually type a URL into the address bar to make this worthwhile?

On the legal point, I'm not a lawyer but it might be construed as cybersquatting. In US law this is described as a domain name registrant who:

  • Has a bad faith intent to profit from the mark
  • Registers, traffics in, or uses a domain name that is:

    • Identical or confusingly similar to a distinctive mark
    • Identical or confusingly similar to or dilutive of a famous mark

A quick Google search reveals similar laws in other jurisdictions. If you're determined to proceed, I strongly recommend you take professional legal advice first.

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3  
Just wanted to chime in to mention cybersquatting as well. Doing things this way, if your competitor wisens up they can seize your domain AND the traffic you had destined for it. – Ivan Mar 3 at 0:23
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... AND sue for their damages, which may very well exceed not just your profit but even your entire turnover. And that's before we get into suing for legal costs as well. And considering the obvious bad faith, that may include being sued into personal bankruptcy. – MSalters Mar 3 at 12:35
    
@Ivan how would the competitor seize a domain you bought? That's not how it works, even if the domain name is the business name. You didn't buy it, it's not yours. – SnakeDoc Mar 4 at 18:13
    
@SnakeDoc The competitor can file for arbitration with ICANN. As a non-business entity, good luck winning over the arbiter. nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/… – Ivan Mar 4 at 19:01
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@SnakeDoc I agree-- simply owning a domain is not a problem. If I own apple.com and sell ceramic fruit, I'm fine. But you're missing the "bad faith" element in which the OP is trying to steal the competitor's traffic by impersonating said competitor and offering/selling a competing service. – Ivan Mar 4 at 20:06

I've been on the other end of this scenario. It was a couple of years ago, but I can't imagine much has changed. We held the trademark on the domain name—let's say we were ExtraSpecialVeeblefetzers.com, so a competitor opened up ExtraSpecialVeeblefetzers.co.uk.

So I dashed off a letter that we were going to file a complaint, not with the trademark office, but with ICANN. The reason this was a good way to go is that to even defend yourself in this kind of situation required a prohibitive amount of paperwork. I pointed out that whether we won or lost, he was about to be in for a huge, several-months-long bureaucratic pain in the tuchus either way.

The next day we got an email from him saying he'd reconsidered his strategy and "didn't feel good about" what he'd done, and he closed down ExtraSpecialVeeblefetzers.co.uk.

Your guys may not be as astute as I was. But they also don't have to warn you before filing the complaint. Personally, I would steer clear of it entirely, myself. For the few days he had it up, some of our customers began sending him really nasty letters (we had a lot of customer loyalty, it was a very well-liked brand.) People see that and they assume you're a creep... You might wind up losing more business than you gain from a stunt like that. People are savvy and don't trust doing business with people that can't succeed on their own merits.

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2  
You get points for pain in the tuchus. You sound like me!! Also, it good to hear your experience on the matter. Another warning is that many countries do honor trademark and copyright legal complaints and will take some form of action. This is a huge risk especially since some countries may treat this as a criminal offense worth imprisonment, fines, etc. Not at all advised. – closetnoc Mar 2 at 23:47
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Thanks. I also realize reading this back now that I forgot to specifically explain: ICANN rules protect trademark holders against others using their trademark as a domain name. If I hold a trademark for "Extra Special Veeblefetzers" ICANN will enforce my right to sole use of any domain name based on it... ExtraSpecialVeeblefetzers.co.uk, ExtraSpecialVeeblefetzers.org, ExtraSpecialVeeblefetzers.info, etc. I don't need to register them specifically. If someone starts using them, especially someone in the same field, ICANN has a procedure by which I can complain and block the use. – Michael Kupietz Mar 4 at 9:12

First off, how are you going to get traffic to that domain? Google aren't going to index it if it simply redirects to your domain. If you use any other means to promote traffic to your site through this other domain you're running the risk of being guilty of fraud.

Secondly, Nominet (the UK registry) have strict rules about malicious domain registration; and this would probably qualify under that, meaning your competitor could take the domain off you. http://www.nominet.uk/domains/resolving-uk-domain-disputes-and-complaints/#abusive

Thirdly and finally, if the domain is registered in the UK there is the danger of a passing off offence. Unlikely if you're just redirecting it, but IANAL and I would not want to risk that.

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"how are you going to get traffic to that domain?" - it's likely only going to catch those who mistype the URL. – w3dk Mar 3 at 0:11
    
How many times does anyone mistype .co.uk instead of .com? – GeoffAtkins Mar 3 at 6:02

This is unfortunately a common practice on the internet and so there is a generally accepted process which many domain owners avail themselves of and that is to contact the registrar of the offending similar domain name with a trademark infringement, in most instances the domain registrar will either disable the offending domain name and quarantine it, or change the ownership of the domain name to the owner of the authentic domain name and allow them to configure it to forward to their own domain name.

It should also be noted that this does not give you any advantage in your Google ranking as Google treats example.com example.org and example.net as 3 completely different domains, additionally, while the exact algorithm used to calculate the page rank is secret and proprietary Google has stated in the past that the system penalises the rank for such sites as they are commonly used for fraudulent purposes rather than for improving your Google ranking.

I had this done to a site I managed in the past, the site was registered to example.com.au and was an e-commerce site with around 10'000 unique hits a day, a foreign entity registered example.net.au, example.com, and example.net and duplicated the front page and login of the site in an attempt to capture user login details. This was identified by a regular check I did on Google at the time to check for copyright infringement on the site and I located these sites in the Google search results. Within 48 hours the domains where shut down, hosting shutdown and I had control of the offending domains under copyright infringement and trademark infringement, I did have to get a lawyer involved but didn't take much effort. The moral I would have to say is not to attempt shady practices like what you are suggesting and instead invest in creating a sound and useful site which will attract users on its own and not through users mis-typing a URL.

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Why not offer to redirect it to their site, for a fee?

We have http://www.example.co.za/ which is a website about the mango fruit growers. We also have an airline called Mango Airlines, with a website http://www.example.com.

Often, people, including often me, enter the wrong one. Instead of trying to sell you fruit when you're trying to book an air ticket, they have a simple pop-up add for the airline, which I'm sure they get paid for.

No trickery!!

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It can work.

I know of a European manufacturing company with a presence in America. The American branch doesn't own their own .com. Instead, their largest customer has the .com. They don't fight for their domain because they don't want to tick off their largest customer.

The situation you're describing may be slightly less obtrusive than the scenario I'm describing, if the company you're talking about has no intentions of bothering with the UK market. I still don't recommend it for some of the reasons described by other answers in the article, but I'm just pointing out that it is possible (even if it is rather unlikely) for things to work out semi-positively for the person who does this.

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