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Law Firm Sues Over Doppelganger Domain Name, Says Infringing Website Is Intercepting Attorney Email

Posted Jun 25, 2012 4:42 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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A New York intellectual property boutique has filed suit against a self-proclaimed cybersecurity developer who allegedly has gained access to some law firm email through a "typosquatter" website with an almost identical name.

Defendant Arthur Wesley Kenzie not only registered a doppelganger domain name intended to be mistaken for the law firm's site but is intercepting email that is supposed to go to lawyers and staffers at the Gioconda Law Group, the suit contends. Filed Friday in federal court in Manhattan, the suit (PDF) seeks injunctive relief and damages for alleged cybersquatting, trademark infringement, and unlawful interception and disclosure of private electronic communications, as well as unfair competition and deceptive business practices.

Attorney Joseph Gioconda tells the ABA Journal that his firm discovered the existence of a website through the same routine analysis of its domain name portfolio that it regularly advises clients to perform. (As a page on the real website for the Gioconda Law Group explains, the boutique helps clients protect their intellectual property and brand names.)

Initially, Gioconda thought perhaps the fake GiocondoLaw.com domain name might have actually been part of his firm's portfolio. But it had been registered anonymously, so it knew it wasn't, Gioconda explains. The misspelled domain name had been linked to his own law firm's legitimate website, making discovery more difficult, he notes.

Then, when he took the next step and sent registered email to individuals at his firm, using the misspelled version of the law firm name in the usual email address, it went through rather than coming back as undeliverable. According to Gioconda and the suit, Kenzie has targeted other major companies in the same manner. He represents himself as a researcher doing work to help the companies enhance their security, but in fact is profiting from misuse of their brand and proprietary information, the complaint alleges.

"Our clients are usually the victim, but this time we are, too," Gioconda said.

While he says the infringing website was blocked by its Web host, GoDaddy.com, last week after the law firm filed suit, the law firm wants the matter resolved under court supervision to ensure that its interests are protected, Gioconda explains.

Kenzie could not immediately be reached for comment by the ABA Journal.

An InfoWorld article and a law firm press release provide more details about the suit.

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