Facebook announced this week that it is suing the domain name registrar Namecheap for registering domain names “that aim to deceive people by pretending to be affiliated with Facebook apps.”
Christen Dubois, Director and Associate General Counsel, IP Litigation at Facebook, explained that Namecheap’s proxy service, called Whoisguard, “registered or used 45 domain names that impersonated Facebook and our services.” Examples of the domains registered include instagrambusinesshelp.com, facebo0k-login.com, and whatsappdownload.site.
Facebook believes Namecheap has an obligation to share information about what it classes as “infringing domains.” In other words, the social network wants Namecheap to provide customer details associated with the domains. Apparently notices were sent by Facebook to Namecheap over the last two years and the company “declined to cooperate,” so legal action has now been taken.
Namecheap in response claims Facebook is “attempting to bypass legal protections and our own stringent customer protections.” Namecheap doesn’t share its customer details without a court-ordered subpeona, which Facebook has not obtained.
According to Namecheap CEO Richard Kirkendall, “Where there is no clear evidence of abuse, or when it is purely a trademark claim, Namecheap will direct complainants, such as Facebook, to follow industry-standard protocol. Outside of said protocol, a legal court order is always required to provide private user information.”
He goes on to say, “Facebook may be willing to tread all over their customers’ privacy on their own platform, and in this case, it appears they want other companies to do it for them, with their own customers. This is just another attack on privacy and due process in order to strong-arm companies that have services like WhoisGuard, intended to protect millions of Internet users’ personal private data.”
The industry-standard protocol Kikendall is most likely referring to is ICANN’s Uniform Domain-Name Dispute-Resolution Policy, which has a clearly-defined process for settling trademark-based domain name disputes. It’s unclear why Facebook hasn’t used this process and instead decided to sue the company.