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TechCrunch Article Should Update Characterization of Domain Company

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DomainMarket.comTechCrunch is one of my favorite websites to read, and I have to say, I spend quite a bit of time on the site. I especially enjoy reading articles by Michael Arrington, Robin Wauters, and Erick Schonfeld, two TechCrunch staff journalists. Unfortunately, I disagree with the portrayal of Mike Mann’s Domain Asset Holdings in yesterday’s article about Facebook’s UDRP filing for 21 domain names.

First, let’s start with the case. Facebook filed a UDRP for 21 domain names owned by Domain Asset Holdings that included the term “Facebook” in them. Some of these names include FacebookBabes.com, FacebookCheats.com…etc. Some might think it’s a cut and dry case, but with trademark law, there’s very little that is cut and dry.

When I was in college, there was a freshman facebook distributed to all RAs, administrators, and freshmen. I am sure there are plenty of other colleges that did and still do the same. Facebook the company did not coin the term “facebook” despite making it into a well-known brand. That being said, according to Domain Asset Holdings founder, Mike Mann, “those names were registered by accident and we are trying to give them back to them.”

My biggest issue with the article is Robin’s characterization of Mann’s company. The article stated that these 21 “domain names are all currently owned by a company called Domain Asset Holdings, a known domain squatter based in Potomac, Maryland.” The article linked to a legal action for the domain name CustomResins.com, which appears to have settled.

There are two organizations that handle UDRP cases: World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and National Arbitration Forum (NAF). According to the WIPO database, there were no UDRP decisions with Domain Asset Holdings listed as the respondent. The NAF database lists two decisions with Domain Asset Holdings as the respondent. Both of these cases ended with Domain Asset Holdings winning.

In looking at Domain Asset Holdings’ nameservers, the company appears to own over one hundred thousand domain names. Having just two UDRP decisions (not including the recent Facebook filing) is quite remarkable for a company with this many domain names. This surely isn’t the sign of a company that’s a “known domain squatter.”

Furthermore, Mike Mann is the entrepreneur who previously sold BuyDomains to NameMedia. I don’t know the purchase price, but I’ve heard it was many millions of dollars. I’ve seen BuyDomains lose very few UDRP cases. Both of Mann’s companies generally invest in descriptive domain names, not trademarks.

For whatever reason, Domain Asset Holdings “accidentally” registered a group of names with trademarks in them and is trying to give them back to the company (according to Mike Mann). In my opinion, the description of Mann’s company as a known domain squatter is quite inaccurate, and I would hope Robin considers changing it.

***Update***

Mike Mann posted a comment on Robin’s article today stating “we have 150,000 names many of which a machine registered.”


About The Author: Elliot Silver is an Internet entrepreneur and publisher of DomainInvesting.com. Elliot is also the founder and President of Top Notch Domains, LLC, a company that has sold seven figures worth of domain names in the last five years. Please read the DomainInvesting.com Terms of Use page for additional information about the publisher, website comment policy, disclosures, and conflicts of interest.


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Comments (51)

    Joe

    I really would love to see Mike Mann’s position on this.

    March 25th, 2011 at 11:57 am

    Robin Wauters

    Very sensationalist reflection. Unfortunately, also rather inaccurate.

    There is no information on the Web about the identity of owner(s) of Domain Asset Holdings that I could easily track down (and I did try). You say Mike Mann is behind it, which is news to me, if it’s true.

    Furthermore, Mann knows how to reach me but hasn’t to date, so allow me to leave in the middle if you are right about it or not.

    I respect Mann a lot as an entrepreneur, but I would never believe someone ‘accidentally’ registered these domain names without adequate proof.

    March 25th, 2011 at 12:10 pm

    Brad Mugford

    I don’t know if TechCruch’s opinion is fair or not, but it is kind of hard to believe that these names were registered accidentally.

    There are countless other obvious TM domains containing terms like “Google”, “Microsoft”, etc. owned by the same company.

    One example is – GoogleMicrosoft.com

    Were those registered by accident also?

    Brad

    March 25th, 2011 at 12:13 pm

    Elliot Silver

    @ Robin

    Mike posted a comment on your article this morning, which I think confirms that it’s his company (he used the term “we”). In the comment, he said that it was likely “machine registered.”

    I am not really sure what’s inaccurate in my article. You called Domain Asset Holdings a known domain squatter and linked to one legal case that settled (I assume privately since I couldn’t find record otherwise).

    Mike Mann aside, I am just wondering how they are a known domain squatter when the UDRP databases only show 2 cases against them, which the company won (aside from the recent Facebook UDRP), and the company owns tens of thousands of domain names. That’s a pretty clean record, IMO.

    March 25th, 2011 at 12:14 pm

    Gnanes

    Do they use a script to grab domains?

    March 25th, 2011 at 12:15 pm

    Elliot Silver

    @ Gnanes

    I would say that it’s likely based on Mike’s comments.

    March 25th, 2011 at 12:16 pm

    Robin Wauters

    The inaccurate part is where you say I attacked Mike’s company while I didn’t even know it was Mike’s company.

    I’m trying to get in touch with him now.

    The rest of the argument is pure semantics. I say everyone who registers domain names with clear trademarks in them, whether ‘accidental’ and ‘automated’ or not, is a squatter. Especially when they are actively put on sale by someone now owning said trademark(s).

    You imply people or companies that do that are only squatters when they get sued, and I do not agree with that.

    March 25th, 2011 at 12:21 pm

    Robin Wauters

    *not owning said trademark(s), that should read.

    Also, I did edit the post because it’s unfair to Mike, but no way I’m updating it with his statement regarding the ‘accidental’ registration of the domain names.

    March 25th, 2011 at 12:26 pm

    Elliot Silver

    @ Robin,

    I didn’t say you attacked the company. There certainly wasn’t close to what I consider an attack, and I have great respect for your writing and research.

    I said I thought you mischaracterized the company because there are plenty of companies out there that operate businesses solely reliant upon monetizing trademark domain names, and Domain Asset Holdings looks to me like it has a pretty clear record based on the number of domain names it owns vs. the small # of UDRP filings. Yes, it shouldn’t have registered the Facebook names, and Mike agrees with that, but it was said to be an accident.

    A lawsuit or UDRP isn’t what determines whether a company is a squatter. However, there have been plenty of cases where companies use a term in a domain name (or even in trade) that is used by another company and that doesn’t necessarily make them a squatter either. The issue of TMs in domain names isn’t always cut and dry.

    I agree that the crux of my argument is about semantics. Calling a domain investor a domain squatter is offensive because domain investing is a legitimate business and cybersquatting is not.

    I own descriptive domain names and it’s frustrating when I explain my business and some people assume it’s cybersquatting like back in the 90s when people were registering brand names.

    March 25th, 2011 at 12:36 pm

    Joe

    I don’t believe the ‘accidental’ part and, even if it were true, Mike Mann’s company should be more careful about the domain it registers, because such facts negatively impact every domain investor’s honorable reputation.

    March 25th, 2011 at 12:45 pm

    JJ

    Surely a script written for registering domain names could easily exclude some of the most well known trademark terms on the internet?

    March 25th, 2011 at 1:06 pm

    Elliot Silver

    @ JJ

    I agree that these names should have been excluded and it appears that Mike agrees too. I don’t know what goes into machine registering domain names though.

    March 25th, 2011 at 1:10 pm

    Brad Mugford

    At the the end of the day you are responsible for what you register, whether via hand reg or script. It is not really an excuse IMO.

    Brad

    March 25th, 2011 at 1:13 pm

    Elliot Silver

    @ Brad

    Yes, I agree with that. But a mistake (according to Mann) should not justify calling the company a domain squatter.

    It would embarrass me if I bought a portfolio of names from someone and didn’t realize it had an obvious trademark in it, and my company was then labeled a squatter, since the article can easily be found in Google by anyone looking up the company name.

    At the end of the day, everyone is entitled to their own opinion, and I do think it was a mistake and something that shouldn’t be a blackmark. My feelings would likely have been different if they were trying to trick people into thinking it was a Facebook endorsed website or something like that, similar to FB typos that link to surveys and whatnot.

    March 25th, 2011 at 1:17 pm

    Brad Mugford

    @ Elliot

    In your opinion is it alright to own and offer to sell domains containing other famous made up TM terms like “Microsoft”, “Google”, etc?

    Brad

    March 25th, 2011 at 1:31 pm

    Elliot Silver

    @ Brad

    Of course not.

    However, as Robin points out, this is a discussion about semantics. The article used the word “known” as if this was a fact prior to this discussion. The word “known” linked to a lawsuit as if that was proof of the domain squatter status, and that lawsuit settled.

    I don’t believe the company has rights to the names, especially when Mike said it was an accident to register them, and I don’t believe the company should be labeled a squatter since they’re wanting to give them back and they appear to have a very clean (very, very large) portfolio.

    March 25th, 2011 at 1:34 pm

    Josh

    It can happen to the best of us, I just accidently reg’d eliotsblog.com.

    March 25th, 2011 at 2:47 pm

    Elliot Silver

    @ Josh

    LOL

    Perhaps my point wasn’t as clear as I wanted it to be. What I attempted to say was the prior to the TechCrunch article, in my opinion, Domain Asset Holdings was not a “known domain squatter.” Yes, it’s a disagreement about semantics.

    March 25th, 2011 at 3:00 pm

    John

    I would must be total idiot to believe what Mike Mann says

    March 25th, 2011 at 3:06 pm

    Shane

    This probably should have been an email between you two not a post. Seems to be a lot of back and forth in the comments. Just my opinion

    March 25th, 2011 at 3:12 pm

      Elliot Silver

      @ Shane

      I thought it would make an interesting discussion, which it has.

      March 25th, 2011 at 3:15 pm

    Adam Strong

    Why isn’t Facebook coming after someone “profiting from their mark” like allfacebook.com ?

    March 25th, 2011 at 4:47 pm

    dave slabon

    These types of names are registered by all kinds of people and companies- Big and Small. GMCI Internet Operations, Inc owners of penthouse.com and the friend finder netword (friendfinder.com) bought facebookofsex.com for ~12100 off of tdnam in 2009 and no one said a word about it. Then you have major isp’s like verizon and roadrunner that show ads on unregistered TM names. Dell and Gateway do it also. If it makes money people are going to do it, right or wrong. To single out domainers is hypocritical though. @josh with automated scripts even with safeholds in place its very easy to register tm names. There is no db that list all active tms and even if there was won it is not always cut and dry

    March 25th, 2011 at 4:50 pm

    Adam

    oh and btw @shane I’m emailing you about your comment that I think you should have emailed to elliot about him emailing his thoughts to Robin

    March 25th, 2011 at 4:51 pm

    M. Menius

    @Elliot – “Calling a domain investor a domain squatter is offensive because domain investing is a legitimate business and cybersquatting is not. ”

    This is a very good, and always relevant, clarification for those who throw around terms like “domain squatter”. “Known domain squatter” certainly implies a well-documented history of prior cybersquatting. I don’t know Mike Mann’s history of legit vs. improper registrations so I can’t comment further.

    I’m glad the registrant is eager to give over the facebook names. I do regard those as TM infringement and we need registrations like that to disappear … as much as possible. They DO NOT represent a majority of domain investors. Period.

    March 25th, 2011 at 6:18 pm

    Josh

    ***Update***

    Mike Mann posted a comment on Robin’s article today stating “we have 150,000 names many of which a machine registered.”

    Why is it these ” machines ” cannot be told NOT to register obvious tm names or is it an issue of hoping it finds them?

    Second I find it very odd a guy who knows what a good name is and new reg is crap would allow a machine to spend 7 figures unwatched. I need one of those self monitored machines that will spend a million of my dollars…wait a second this just in…Im married lol

    March 25th, 2011 at 7:50 pm

    Jamie

    Now “other” tech sites have rolled out the same story, so the “squatter” has continued the snowball with the other articles.

    PC Magazine “21 domain names held by “squatter” Domain Asset Holdings”

    ZDNet “21 domain names from a known domain squatter”

    AllFacebook.com even jumped in the mix for you Adam, :) and wrote “currently held by known domain squatter, Domain Asset Holdings.”
    Not only that, the blog writer wrote in a comment “AllFacebook.com is not a squatter. Facebook obviously considers us helpful to the company’s brand.”

    OMG!

    March 25th, 2011 at 9:03 pm

    Mike Mann

    John, you would must be one

    “John
    March 25th, 2011 at 3:06 pm
    I would must be total idiot to believe what Mike Mann says”

    March 25th, 2011 at 9:15 pm

    Mike Mann

    I think the main point is 99.999% of our names and 100% of our commerce is clean, and calling us squatters is offensive and BS, especially now that a bunch of bloggers are trying to profit on the sensationalist concept.

    March 25th, 2011 at 9:18 pm

      SumGai

      Mike – saying something is ‘offensive’ is as much a judgment call (in fact more) as getting bristly about the term ‘squatter’.

      You make money on domain names — if someone else calls that ‘sitting on’, or ‘squatting’ — it shouldn’t lose you a wink of sleep. (And I suspect it doesn’t.)

      Eliot — oh, shut up. You’re in this business. A lot of people find it repulsive and sleazy. A lot of people don’t. (Turns out a lot of people on your blog fall into the latter category – surprise.) I suspect YOU don’t lose a lot of sleep over that, either. It’s legal. (So’s a lot of other stuff, but that’s another issue.)

      This moral indignation about whether ‘squatter’ is ‘offensive’ or whatever — wrap it up. Put a bow on it. Go on with your business. If you’re in the clear, morally/ethically, you’ve got zilch to defend.

      But think on this — if you really FEEL the need to defend it, it’s probably because, inside, you’ve got an itching sensation that, well, you need to.

      Porn, cheap liquor, and tobacco are legal, too. And folks get real rich off of them, too. Sleep well.

      Sumgai. (don’t bother responding – I won’t see it)

      May 30th, 2013 at 4:15 pm

    Brad Mugford

    Mike,

    I agree the vast majority of domains listed are generic terms, however I looked up a few other famous TM brands and found the following counts.

    Google – 15
    Microsoft – 15
    Twitter – 27

    If automated software is registering these names I think it might be a good idea to add a keyword list to avoid.

    Any software that would register a domain like GoogleMicrosoft.com has an issue.

    Brad

    March 25th, 2011 at 9:47 pm

    Mike Mann

    Robin, Mike Arrington, your founder, before TechCrunch was the President of Pool.com a very well known DOMAIN SQUATTER, not to mention being caught in an enormous domain auction fraud, (which Arrington wasnt involved). You should understand the history and how the domain industry works and know that my collections have always been the least contentious and not diss me like that. Also most of the money I make goes to innovative charitable works and FB is a beast, protect small companies being abused.

    March 25th, 2011 at 10:16 pm

    Elliot Silver

    Just as an update, it looks like the word “known” was removed from the original article.

    March 25th, 2011 at 11:05 pm

    AB

    Good work E

    March 25th, 2011 at 11:48 pm

    Jerry sprInger

    I won’t give my thoughts on mike Mann direct but will say this. Funny how deep pocket .com domainers do TM investments and its ok as an industry. Then if some newbie comes into the business or does a mistake its not right and called every name in the book.

    As far as arlington goes. He did a lot of sales in TM area while at pool. I also don’t know why so many domainers look up to him. So he has a blog. So what. He will never have the success like a frank schilling.

    A lot of contradictions by domainers and that stupid techcrunch

    March 26th, 2011 at 4:54 am

    Joe

    Mike, after all this, in order to show it was all an accidental mistake, the best (and obvious) thing your company should do would be scanning the entire portfolio, finding the infringing domains (at least those containing the most blatant TMs) and deleting them or handing them over to the respectful TM owners (IMO this would be the preferred choice). Then TechCrunch should write another post to clarify this story.

    March 26th, 2011 at 6:15 am

    Jay

    A script may be registering them but they are listed for sale on your site. I doubt a script lists domains for sale on your site. Doesn’t matter how long you have been in business or how many charitable things you have done as registering/profiting on trademarks is toxic for the industry as a whole as the bad things get the most attention unfortunately.

    March 26th, 2011 at 11:01 pm

    Yeah Rite

    A machine did it! Right Mike.
    This says it all
    “Also most of the money I make goes to innovative charitable works and FB is a beast, protect small companies being abused.”
    Change your name to Robin Hood.
    PS. How are things with the wife and family?

    March 28th, 2011 at 1:11 pm

    UnknownDomainer

    It’s Squatting plain and simple.

    Not sure why domainers feel the need to constantly defend b$ registrations. Sure, there is a middle grey area between right and wrong by why defend the obvious wrong?

    Side with a squatter and you appear to defend a squatter. Is that the image you want? I dont think so.

    April 1st, 2011 at 1:54 am

    Mike Mann

    you know nothing about trademark law, its derogatory, and you are propping up a huge corporation reverse hijacking from little guys, and its all irrelevant, I said they can have them free, what else can one do

    April 1st, 2011 at 2:27 am

    domainer

    @ mike Mann

    Bs mike. That simple. Don’t tell everyone here we don’t know about trademark law.

    If some newbie did this everyone would be more crtical and outspoken then what your getting.

    Above.com is in trouble and now you. We all make mistakes just admit fault and stop the bs excuses imo.

    Also you own offer them free after the news. How noble you are. LOL.

    April 1st, 2011 at 2:32 am

    Mike Mann

    I swear you dont know a thing. I admitted it already by giving all the cost and value to the huge corporation free who could have bought them, and you all should not support

    April 1st, 2011 at 2:38 am

    UnknownDomainer

    A pickpocket gets stopped by the police. He returns the wallet he stole for free. He’s still a pickpocket.

    Doesn’t mean he didn’t keep others. Doesn’t mean he didn’t sell the contents of others.

    The infringement is primarily based on usage and intention. You may legitimately hold a name with the term Facebook in it. One way is to seek permission.

    Same old crap. These comments are hysterical.

    April 1st, 2011 at 4:19 pm

    UnknownDomainer

    Maybe we don’t know anything about Trademarks but I’m pretty sure everyone has a better handle on Reverse Hijacking than you, Mr Mann.

    How’s the wife?

    April 1st, 2011 at 4:20 pm

    Mike Mann

    anonymous posters are always the biggest homos, I dont have a wife but I know a lot of whores

    April 2nd, 2011 at 3:14 am

    Adam

    What do “homos” have to do with anything dude ?

    April 2nd, 2011 at 11:42 am

    Mike Mann

    usually homos do gay sex, which is ok, but anonymous posters have to clean up after them

    April 2nd, 2011 at 12:10 pm

    Mike Mann

    I purposely post a lot of offensive material like at http://Crime.org/ but am I really a hater of gays, a racist, antisemetic and the likes? I dont even need to answer that, people who know me know what I have always done as a social activist and who my friends are, and all the people our work has served…………..http://MikeMann.com/

    April 2nd, 2011 at 12:18 pm

    Grey Wolf

    well i know Domain Asset Holdings got a hold of a clients domain name and they still had 10 years left on there account net firm stated it was transferred and stated they must have done it(my client) but funny thing is i am the only one with the info to even access it and my client wanted it that way so were now having to file suit with Domain Asset Holdings to recover the domain name that is a registered trade mark of there company…so they might need to see what there equipment is doing and they might want to check for hackers on there system because this wasn’t done by us or net firm …

    November 27th, 2011 at 5:08 pm

    Jon

    personally I dont get bloggers and domain industry ppl who DEFEND these overreaching greedy bully corporations in there trademark claims.

    If called on a trademark complaint and you believe it’s valid .. just give up the domain like mike offered to.

    REALLY.. No-Big-Deal

    The way it stands now .. soon Facebook
    will have trademarked virtually every combination of the alphabet here very shortly and then we will ALL be screwed

    Here is a perfect example of why I hate corporations and their trademark wars and why i dont understand ppl defending greedy non consumer and anti domainer
    companies like Facebook.

    http://domainincite.com/1863-facebook-sues-teachbook-com-for-cybersquatting

    July 19th, 2013 at 3:32 pm

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