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The explosion of the Internet begat an explosion of trademark violations. Cybersquatters and cybergripers made full use of other people’s trademarks, either for monetary gain or for sport. A number of companies help act as cybercops, trolling the Internet for potential trademark violations. Most of these companies provide the cop work on top of other services, like trademark research or domain name registration. These companies, such as Markmonitor Inc., NameProtect Inc. and Marksmen, are all relatively small and privately held. They were founded during the Internet boom, but they have survived the bust. Many of their clients, large corporations, still find it important to protect their intellectual property. “We help trademark owners on the policing side,” says Ken Taylor, chief executive of Glendale, Calif.’s Marksmen. Here’s how companies like Marksmen work. They use search technology to trawl the Internet for the appearance of a customer’s trademarked name, logo or icon. The name can appear in a Web site’s URL. It can appear in the actual text of the site. It can also appear in the “metatags,” or hidden programming language, of the site. When a trademarked name is written into a site’s metatags, search engines like Google or Yahoo will pick it up. That diverts traffic to the alleged infringer’s site. Marksmen will produce a report of the Web sites that may infringe a customer’s trademarks. Madison, Wis.-based NameProtect, Boise, Idaho-based Markmonitor and TrademarkBots.com of Naples, Fla., also offer similar policing services. With all the services, a lawyer can log on to a Web site to check his or her account and view results. But there are differences between the services. NameProtect’s VigilActive product, for example, has an online message board component. When attorneys or trademark agents log on to see their reports, they can also post messages about the results. That way, attorneys in distant offices, or in-house and outside counsel can collaborate, says chief executive Brian Wiegand. Markmonitor generates automated reports. In addition, it will search through a vast pool of domain names — like those associated with the .biz or various country domains — for potential trademark conflicts. Markmonitor also has an alliance with Lexis Nexis. TrademarkBots.com, which began in January, is the newest policing service on the block. In addition to searching the Web, it patrols three different patent and trademark databases. It offers potential clients a 21-day free trial. Policing the Web is not a free lunch. Marksmen charges $1,175 per month per brand. TrademarkBots charges between $500 and $800. NameProtect charges $5,000 per month per brand for VigilActive. Wiegand says his service is more expensive in part because its search technology is more sophisticated. The services won’t end a company’s frustrations on the Web. Companies may be overwhelmed by the potential trademark violations that these services uncover. Some policing services will try to winnow down the results, depending on the customer’s parameters. One large media company, for example, asks Marksmen to look specifically for pornography and so-called adult sites that use its trademarks. Marksmen often detects its proprietary cartoon figures that appear in porn sites, says an attorney with this company. Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp. uses Markmonitor to crawl the Web for a particular trademark, like the Simpsons, or a specific rogue site it wants to monitor. “[Markmonitor] dissects the Web site so we can gather as much evidence against infringers,” says IP paralegal Crecia Mathalia. The next step is sending cease-and-desist letters.

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