VeriSign launches brand, domain protection services

VeriSign Inc. launched a new suite of brand management services Thursday to help companies protect their brands and trademarks online from cybersquatters and other digital foes.

The Digital Brand Management Services offer two sets of features to VeriSign customers: Registration and name services, and trademark protection and promotion services, according to Maigread Eichten, vice president of Digital Brand Management Services at VeriSign. The registration services offered by the company will scour registries of Web addresses to look for Web sites that use companies' names or the names of their products, she said. A list of those sites will then be returned to the client so that the company can either register those names, attempt to buy them from their current owners or leave them be, she said.

The launch of these new VeriSign services underscores the increasing complexity that companies are facing in protecting their corporate identities online. The threat of cybersquatting has increased along with the influx of new domain name suffixes such as ".info" and ".biz," leaving many businesses at a loss on how to protect all their brands and intellectual property, VeriSign said.

Beyond cybersquatting concerns, the service is needed because doing this sort of work for many companies is time- and resource-intensive, as many large companies have as between 200 and 500 trademarks or brands to protect online, Eichten said. Companies will also find the service useful as many of the biggest brands in the world don't own all three of the major top-level domains (.com, .net and .org) associated with their names, she said. The service will also help companies to register for country-specific domain names in countries where registration is more difficult than in the U.S., such as some European countries, Eichten added.

The second service VeriSign will offer is a digital brand-protection service. This service will search the Web for sites that are using a company's trademarked materials, like reports, logos or art, and notify clients about that use, said Sean Downey, director of Digital Brand Management Services at VeriSign. Companies will then be able to take action against those sites or reach licensing deals with them, he said. Also falling under the Brand Management Services is support for the use of keywords in place of full Web addresses, as well as Web-address shortcuts for wireless devices, he said.

As part of the announcement, VeriSign also said it would purchase 1GlobalPlace Inc., a company that provides international domain name registration, and that it had entered into a definitive agreement to purchase NameEngine Inc., a domain name and intellectual property management firm. The deals have a total combined value of US$11 million, according to the company.

To provide the brand and trademark services, VeriSign has partnered with Cyveillance Inc. and Cobion AG, two companies that provide "spidering" technology -- technology that scours the Web looking for information, Eichten said.

Additionally, the company is incorporating a Digital Brand Partnership Program, which allows VeriSign partners to provide digital brand-management services to their clients. Marketing and advertising titan Young & Rubicam Inc. and interactive marketing agency SF Interactive Inc. have already signed up for the program, the company said.

Both Eichten and Downey dismissed concerns that companies might use VeriSign's new services to force offline Web sites critical of them or use the services to leverage Web addresses away from their current owners.

"I don't think we're going to be in the business of making those kinds of decisions," Downey said. "It's a consultative service, not a (litigious) one."

"We're really just trying to provide information," and what companies do with that information once they have it is up to them, Eichten said.

The services are available immediately and cost between $5,000 and $100,000, depending on what is needed, Eichten said.

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