Last week Bill Poser of Language Log had a post about Leo Stoller, a Chicago businessman who claims not only to have copyright over the word “stealth” but over all instances of the sequential combination of those letters. For instance, he tried suing a company whose URL is: Stealthisemail.com. Most people would read that as “steal this email” as in Abbie Hoffman’s book Steal This Book, but Stoller saw the word “stealth” buried in there.
But owning a sequence of letters isn’t the half of it. Major companies often claim ownership of sequences of letters which are similar to their own brand name, but which are really misspellings or common typos.
An Internet arbitrator has awarded Google Inc. the rights to several Web site addresses that relied on typographical errors to exploit the online search engine’s popularity so computer viruses and other malicious software could be unleashed on unsuspecting visitors.
The National Arbitration Forum, a legal alternate to litigating in court, sided with a Google complaint alleging that Sergey Gridasov of St. Petersburg, Russia, had engaged in “typosquatting” by operating Web sites named googkle.com, ghoogle.com and gooigle.com.