Once the Soviet Union was dubbed as the "Evil Empire", supposedly hell-bent on global communist domination. Today, if the Russians are ever coming, it may be to steal our Web sites.
New Zealand intellectual property law firm AJ Park -- of all companies -- discovered a St. Petersburg man had "cloned" its Web site with just a few Russifications.
General manager John Lamb became Boris Lamb, partner Greg Arthur became Grigory Fokin and managing partner Andrew Collins was renamed Andrew Colmogoroff. The Wellington office became the St. Petersburg office and the Auckland office became the Helsinki office.
Lamb says the firm was bowled over and baffled by the copies.
"It was copied down to the last detail including papers and opinions on legal issues, with all the New Zealand references replaced by Russian ones. Even the firm's previous logo was copied, but with the Russian site's name inserted where AJ Park had been," he says.
AJ Park only became aware of the cloned sites when an associate in Israel stumbled across it while doing some research. Further investigation revealed the man behind the copied sites owned a design studio in St. Petersburg.
His firm used the sites to claim good Web design skills and to attract advertising revenue from banner ads. The Russian blames a systems administrator and says the sites have been removed. However, they had operated for a year, with two different ISP (Internet service provider) names in the U.S. and an administrative address in Canada. Their domain names were micronotary.com, datanotary.com and notarycenter.com.
The sites have been amended to redirect people back to the official AJPark.co.nz original and AJ Park is contacting the ISPs to ensure all traces of the Russian copies have been eliminated.
Lamb says intellectual property firms regularly surf the Net to seek out potential cybersquatters and other infringes of copyright.
While he says this case was not damaging for his business, similar happenings may cause problems for other firms.
"We are flattered in a way the Russians picked up our site, but this it could happen to anyone and I guess it happens quite regularly," Lamb says.